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The Kenya Wetlands Forum

The Kenya Wetlands Forum (KWF) is a multi-stakeholder institution representing organizations and individual entities concerned with the conservation and sustainable utilization of wetlands. Membership is open to institutions, individuals and establishments whose activities and operations impact on wetlands in one way or the other.

The Kenya Wetlands Working group (KWWG), a precursor to the KWF, was conceptualized following recommendations made at a workshop on Wetlands and Water birds in Eastern Africa held in Uganda in 1990 under the auspices of the International Wetlands Research Bureau (IWRB) and Makerere University Institute of Environment and Natural Resources (MUIENR). Its main purpose was to steer debate towards the conservation and sustainable management of wetlands in Kenya. KWWG was subsequently formed in January 1991 and existed as a sub-committee of the East African Natural History Society (EANHS). There was a period of dormancy until 2002 when, through the stewardship of Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and IUCN–East Africa Regional Office, KWWG was reactivated and renamed the Kenya Wetlands Forum (KWF).

KWF is supported by a management committee currently comprising of 10 individuals representing Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), National Museums of Kenya (NMK), Fisheries Department, IUCN–East Africa Regional Office, East African Wild Life Society (EAWLS), WWF–East and South Africa Regional Programme Office (WWF-ESARPO), Nature Kenya, Youth For Conservation and the Community Action for Nature Conservation. The KWF secretariat is hosted by EAWLS.

Key Achievements
KWF has, through its work over the years, achieved a lot towards promoting wise use of wetlands in Kenya. Following is a summary of recent achievements.

  1. The forum provided technical support in the development and implementation of site specific management plans for Dunga Swamp, Lakes Ol Bolossat, Jipe and Naivasha.
  2. The forum facilitated development of national and local wetland conservation strategies and action plans for wetlands including Dunga Swamp and Lake Naivasha.
  3. The forum provided support in the development of the National Wetlands Policy 2013.
  4. The forum contributed in the development of the Kenya Wetlands Atlas 2012.
  5. Since 2005, the forum has continued to provide input in the production of State of the Environment Reports for Kenya.
  6. Successfully advocated for the gazettement of the Environmental Management and Coordination (wetlands, river banks, lake shores and sea shore management) regulations, 2009.
  7. The forum played a significant role in the designation of Tana Delta as a Ramsar site in 2012.
  8. The forum successfully advocated for development of a comprehensive land use plan for the Tana Delta.


      • KWF is an important platform not only for advocacy but also knowledge and information sharing on wetlands. There are opportunities to strengthen these functions further.
      • The rapid industrialization and urbanization being experienced in the region is a big threat to wetlands.
      • There is need to strengthen KWF’s resources base so that the secretariat is able to operate and support members in implementing projects.
      • Both the governance and management capacity of the forum need to be strengthened in order to effectively perform respective roles and responsibilities.
      • There is need to stimulate the interest of members to participate in the activities of the forum.
      • There is need to develop mechanisms for monitoring, evaluating, and reporting the work of the forum.
      • There are partnership opportunities with multiple stakeholders that the forum needs to explore and develop.


2013-2018 Strategic Drivers

KWF has identified 6 key external factors that form the basis of its strategic plan for the period 2013-2018. These include:

      • Change from a central to a devolved system of government
      • Lack of clear policy and regulatory framework on wetlands management
      • Increased human threats on wetlands resources
      • Rapid Industrialization and Urbanization
      • Climate change
      • Threats to trans-boundary wetlands resources

1. Change from a central to a devolved system of government
Kenya is currently transitioning from a centralized to a devolved system of government. The National and county governments will have shared responsibilities in the management of the environment and natural resources including wetlands. The management of wetlands under a centralized system of government has been a challenge. The challenge is expected to be even greater under a devolved system of government. The challenges that will have to be addressed include fragmentation of laws and policies on the environment and natural resources management, inadequate collaboration among various institutions charged with the responsibility of managing wetlands, low levels of awareness of the general public on the significance and threats of wetlands, the differing land tenure systems of public, private and community land and inadequate technical and financial capacities particularly at the county level. The restructuring of government and the revision of various policies and legislation to address some of these gaps is in progress and thus an opportunity for KWF.

2. Lack of clear policy and regulatory framework on wetlands management
Kenya is a signatory to the Ramsar Convention and as such is under obligation to take legal and policy measures to protect wetlands. These measures include actions stipulated in the Ramsar Convention, other relevant conventions and Kenya’s own laws and policies. The Environmental Management and Coordination Act (EMCA), 1999 is the overall framework for the management of the environment, wetlands included. Other laws include the Water Act and the Wildlife (Management and Coordination) Act. Wetlands are affected by the land tenure system in the country. Wetlands fall into the three systems of land tenure in Kenya namely; public, community and private land. There are a number of land governance and management issues that will have effects on wetlands management. Secondly, a law on community land is yet to be developed. In the current reforms to align various laws with the Constitution, the Community Land Act has been given a 5 year timeline for enactment, yet it should ideally be drafted along with the other laws on public and private land. Thirdly, there is a persistent coordination challenge among various government institutions vested with responsibility over the management of different kinds of natural resources. A number of laws and policies that affect wetlands are currently under review to align them with the Constitution and a devolved system of government. This presents a good opportunity for further intervention by KWF to ensure development of a clear and comprehensive policy and regulatory framework for wetlands conservation and management in the country, including addressing the lack of water resources assessment in regard to supply and demand.

3. Increased Human Threats on Wetlands Resources
Human activities pose the greatest threats on wetlands. Many of the world’s poorest communities live near wetlands and are highly dependent on the services and resources that wetlands provide. These communities are the key beneficiaries of the social and economic benefits of wetlands. On the other hand, they are also the greatest affected. Key human activities that pose significant threats on wetlands include drainage of wetlands for agriculture and settlement, excessive water abstraction for irrigation, industrial and domestic use, dumping of wastes, over extraction of wetlands resources (both plants and animals), introduction of alien species and siltation and poorly managed nature-tourism. These activities are accentuated by rapid population increase, poor land use planning and rapid changes in land uses and climate change effects such as drought and flooding. Interventions designed to address poverty and increase access to resources, rarely consider the full range of consequences and trade-offs with ecosystem services and the other benefits of wetlands.

4. Rapid Industrialization and Urbanization
Kenya is one of the countries in Africa that is currently experiencing rapid industrial and commercial development. Vision 2030; Kenya’s long-term development framework aims at making the country a middle income economy providing high quality life for all its citizens by the year 2030. Agriculture and tourism have been prioritized as key sectors that will rapidly steer this development. This development is likely to put a significant amount of pressure on wetland resources. The utilization of resources, if not well regulated, will result in high levels of pollution and environmental degradation. Also wetland destruction, through drainage or in-filling, is a common feature of urban and industrial development. The construction of water reservoirs and dams for hydroelectric power generation and water storage will also have significant effects, including detrimental development. The government has not developed appropriate policies and capacities for wetlands and water resources management in the face of rising rates of industrialization and urbanization. There are likely to be significant changes in water quality as a result of the effects of municipal and industrial effluents, agricultural nutrients and pesticides and siltation from farm lands. Examples of the projects that are likely to have significant effects on wetlands include the damming of major rivers for hydropower generation, development of industrial parks and export processing zones, development of golf tourism, roads and housing infrastructure and the Lamu Port project.

5. Threats to Transboundary Wetlands Resources
A number of wetlands are a shared resource between Kenya and neighboring countries. Examples include Lakes Victoria, Turkana and Jipe and Rivers Ewaso Ngiro South, Sio, Malakisi, and Mara. Management of transboundray wetland resources faces a number of challenges. For instance, there is limited sharing of information among the countries, some laws, policies and programs on wetlands management are conflictual and contradictory, there is no mechanism for dealing with non-point pollution sources across nations, management of impacts of up-stream users on down-stream users especially when it is across national borders, lack of integrated management plans for most of the transboundry wetland resources and the associated migratory species. The East African Community (EAC) provides a good political framework for the harmonization of laws, policies and strategies on the management of transboundary wetlands resources. There are also opportunities for partnership with non-governmental organizations working in these countries.

6. Climate Change
Climate change is generally understood as a significant change of the average temperatures over longer periods of time, causing changes in weather patterns and a (slow) rise in sea level, among other impacts. There is scientific evidence that climate change is now happening and its impacts will gradually become severe. Climate change impacts for Kenya are drought and water scarcity, flooding and sea-level rise. Considering that over 70% of natural disasters in Kenya are weather-related, the country is considered highly vulnerable to climate change with an expected gradual increment in the frequency, magnitude and severity of climate related issues such as increased drought period and flooding frequency.

Research suggests that temperatures will continue to increase, and the frequency of hot days and nights will rise. Precipitation is expected to increase in some areas, with the largest rise in rainfall occurring in the highland and coastal regions. There are also increased risks of widespread disease epidemics and conflict over land and water resources. Climate change and climate variability therefore pose major threats to the environment, to economic growth and to sustainable development in Kenya. Some estimates place the cost to Kenya related to droughts and flooding at about 2.4% of GDP per year. KWF has an opportunity to work with other stakeholders to develop climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies that take into consideration the capacity of wetlands to store and sequester substantial amounts of carbon.

Our Strategic Priorities Services

    • In the period 2013-2018, KWF will address five key strategic areas including wetlands policy and legislation, wetlands conservation and management programs, partnerships, research and knowledge management. This section describes the strategic focus in details in terms of the objectives, strategic issues and planned interventions.

Objective 1: Advocate for the development and implementation of policies, legislation, regulations and agreements that promote integration of wetlands values and wise-use principles into planning, management and development options

The Issues

      • The national Wetlands policy is not yet finalized and approved by Government
      • Fragmented policies, acts and regulations affect wetlands conservation and management
      • Low level of public awareness on wetlands legislation
      • Inadequate / poor implementation of wetlands regulations
      • Inadequate matching of supply and demand


      • Support the finalization and implementation of the National Wetlands Policy
      • Support harmonization and integration of policies, laws and regulations that affect wetlands
      • Monitor compliance and enforcement of wetlands policies and regulations

Objective 2: Facilitate integration of wise use principles in wetlands conservation and management.

The Issues

      • The status of wetlands in the Country and the region is not known
      • There is no system for monitoring the status of wetlands
      • Most wetlands do not have management plans
      • A number of wetlands require special protection and/or rehabilitation
      • Inadequate technical and organizational capacities in wetlands conservation and management
      • Wise-use principles have not adequately been localized.


      • Survey and profile wetlands in Kenya
      • Strengthen capacity of KWF members in development and implementation of integrated wetlands management plans
      • Facilitate development of integrated wetlands management plans
      • Build stakeholders capacities in wetlands management.

Objective 3: Develop and strengthen partnerships among wetlands stakeholders at the local, national and international levels.

The Issues

      • Inadequate networking and partnerships
      • Lack of a strategic approach in partnerships development
      • Existence of opportunities to develop strategic partnerships with a variety of stakeholders at various levels


      • Develop and implement guidelines on engagement with partners
      • Identify and form partnerships with new and emerging governance structures
      • Establish regional and county level chapters of the Kenya Wetlands Forum
      • Establish partnerships with organizations in regions and counties where KWF does not have a physical presence.
      • Identify and develop opportunities for partnerships with other non-governmental organizations working wetlands management in the region.
      • Identify and develop opportunities for partnerships with private sector stakeholders.
      • Identify and develop opportunities for partnerships with research institutions.
      • Establish collaboration mechanisms with international conventions, Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) and regional governance institutions.

Objective 4: Facilitate the creation and sharing of knowledge and information on wetlands

The Issues

      • There are a number of issues about wetlands in this region that have not been very well studied and understood
      • Weak link between science and policy on wetlands management
      • Inadequate use of the scientific knowledge and resources available within the network to inform policy formulation and management practices
      • Inadequate information on the available regional expertise in wetlands planning and management
      • Increasing interest in wetlands by students from local universities
      • Inadequate dissemination of wetlands research findings and recommendations


      • Build a database of experts in wetlands thematic areas
      • Support research on wetlands
      • Support integration of indigenous knowledge in wetlands management
      • Share knowledge and information on wetlands management
      • Mobilize funds to support wetlands research
      • Develop an internship program for young professionals in wetlands management

Objective 5: Create public awareness on wetlands


      • General low levels of awareness of the public about wetlands (their importance, threats, and opportunities to play a part in wise use)
      • Rapid growth in ICT that present an opportunity for enhanced access to wetlands information


      • Develop and implement a plan for knowledge management and sharing with KWF stakeholders and the public at large
      • Strengthen the knowledge management capacity of KWF

Our Strategic Priorities – Organizational Strengthening

    • Institutional governance, membership, management, public awareness and financial resources have been identified as the key capacity areas that KWF needs to strengthen in order to enhance efficiency, effectiveness and sustainability. The section outlines the objectives in each capacity area and describes capacity gaps identified and the interventions KWF seeks to implement.

Objective 1: Strengthen the organizational and management capacity of the secretariat

Capacity gaps

      • There are no clear terms of engagement of the forum with the host, EAWLS
      • There is no mechanism in place for strengthening the capacity of the Secretariat staff
      • There is no mechanism in place for evaluating the performance of secretariat staff


      • Strengthen the relationship of KWF and host institutions
      • Strengthen supervision of secretariat staff
      • Strengthen capacities of secretariat staff

Objective 2: Strengthen the financial base of KWF

Capacity gaps

      • Inadequate funds to support KWF operations and programs
      • Inadequate efforts to raise funds
      • Inadequate resource mobilization and fundraising capacity


      • Strengthen fundraising capacity of the secretariat
      • Develop and implement a fundraising plan
      • Develop opportunities for generation of unrestricted income

Objective 3: Strengthen KWF membership

Capacity gaps

      • There are no rules and regulations to guide membership participation
      • There is a steady reduction in the interest and participation of members in KWF activities (particularly meetings)
      • There are inadequate mechanisms of engaging members in KWF activities


      • Develop and implement membership rules and regulations
      • Conduct a public awareness and membership recruitment drive
      • Develop and implement a program for membership involvement in KWF work

Objective 4: Increase public awareness about KWF

Capacity gaps

      • KWF has a weak public profile
      • There are limited efforts in creating public awareness about KWF


      • Develop and implement an awareness campaign to sensitize the public about KWF

Objective 5: Reinvigorate the Management Committee

Capacity gaps

      • Waning interest and commitment of some Committee members
      • Weak mechanisms of engaging committee members in the forum activities


      • Review as may be necessary and revise the composition of Management
      • Develop and implement a mechanism for evaluating effectiveness of the management committee