Flamingoes flock to Kenya’s Lake Bogoria

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Africa/Madagascar > East Africa > Kenya

Grey crowned crane or South African crowned crane (Balearica regulorum), breeding pair in ritual display in typical wetland habitat. Amboseli National Park. Kenya.
© WWF-Canon / Martin HARVEY


Located in Kenya’s Great Rift Valley some 260km northwest of Nairobi, Lake Bogoria is famous for its geysers and hot springs. The lake, a Ramsar wetland of international importance, supports large numbers of flamingos; millions have been reported feeding in the lake at peak times of the year. Although the area is protected, it is vulnerable to pollution.

Through a community-based wetlands project, WWF supports local communities manage the biodiversity and ecological values of the lake and its catchment area. WWF has also helped establish an environmental education programme and develop new ecotourism initiatives.


The Lake Bogoria catchment basin covers an area of about 1,200 km2, occupying the Eastern wall of the central part of Kenya’s Great Rift Valley. The lake (34 km2) is one of a series of saline lakes within the Great Rift Valley. The Lake straddles Baringo and Koibatek districts, about 260 km northwest of Nairobi.

Lying within the catchment area, the Lake Bogoria National Reserve (LBNR) covers an area of 107 km2 and supports many regionally and nationally-endangered species including the migratory Lesser flamingos (Phoeniconaias minor) as well as Greater flamingos (Phoenicopterus rubber) and Black-necked grebe (Podiceps nigricollis). Populations of up to two million birds can occur at any time, and can reside in the reserve for months.

The LBNR was gazetted in 1973, and declared Kenya’s third Ramsar site, a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention, in August 2001. The Reserve was established to safeguard and conserve the aforementioned species, as well as the rare Greater Kudu antelope.

The total human population adjacent to LBNR reserve is estimated at 10,000 inhabitants.

WWF supported two predecessor projects: the Lake Bogoria Community-Based Wetlands Project (LBCBWP), 2001-2005; and the Kenya Community-Based Wetlands Project, 1996-1999. To date, the projects have made significant achievements, including the development of a participatory integrated management plan and building the capacity of local communities to manage their natural resources and livelihood activities through their own institutions.

The project team of the LBCBWP identified the main challenges to be addressed through the LBICP as human resource conflicts, low returns from tourism, poor infrastructure in the LBNR, inequitable distribution of revenue, poor farming methods, deforestation and encroachment, and insufficient environmental literacy and awareness. Key opportunities for the successful implementation of the programme were also identified. They include:
• The application of integrated river basin management (IRBM) principles set out in Agenda 21 (UNCED, Rio, 1992), and endorsed by the World Water Forum; the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.
• The Kenya Government’s recently formulated policy framework to support an Integrated River Basin Management approach. In addition, there are other laws, regulations, policies and conventions that are relevant for the harmonization of multi-sectoral interests and practices in conservation and management of the plan area. Kenya is in the process of implementing water sector reforms.

The programme will contribute to national policies and legislation, international environmental conventions, and regional initiatives, including: poverty reduction strategies, sectoral policies/legislation including water policies, water acts, environmental action plans and acts, forest acts, and land acts and the Ramsar Wetlands Convention and the CBD.


The programme is designed with the purpose of consolidating and scaling up the integrated management of biodiversity and the appropriate use of natural resources in the Lake Bogoria Catchment within the Rift Valley lakes framework.

The programme goal remains “an ecosystem which maintains its natural functions and biodiversity and sustains human development and welfare”.

Specific objectives:

1) By 2006: adopted and implemented Lake Bogoria Catchment management plan facilitates the maintenance of natural functions and biodiversity while sustaining human development and welfare.

2) By 2007: catchment programmes and similar initiatives, including Lake Bogoria in the Rift Valley lakes, and the wider East Africa region are facilitated/supported through lesson learning and information exchange.

3) By 2009: active and equitable multi-stakeholder membership and participation in water user associations is facilitating the sustainable management of water resources and the maintenance of natural and hydrological functions in Lake Bogoria Catchment.

4) By 2009: fully capacitated and functional local institutions are managing the maintenance of hydrological and natural functions in the Lake Bogoria Catchment so that WWF can gradually transfer roles and responsibilities from the project to the county councils.


This programme is being implemented based on the relatively new concept of Integrated River Basin Management / Integrated Water Resource Management. In addition to the support of the implementation of Lake Bogoria Integrated Management Plan, significant effort will be required to build capacity, share lessons and support new water related institutions.

The programme is implemented based on funds sourced through WWF United Kingdom.


The achievements of the earlier projects are:
• Development and adoption of the participatory integrated management plan for Lake Bogoria National Reserve (LBNR) as a model for replication by other protected areas under the jurisdiction of local authorities.
• Institutional capacity building with strong linkages demonstrated between natural resources management and livelihood improvement.
• Government recognition and adoption of local environmental management committees established as vehicles for the planning and implementation of activities.
• Establishment of the Lake Bogoria Environmental Education Programme.
Data generation of ecology and socio-economic aspects of Lake Bogoria and its surroundings.
• Revenue sharing mechanism developed between local authorities and community.
• New tourism and development initiatives within nine local authority jurisdiction spearheaded by the management of Lake Bogoria.

This phase of the programme began in July 2005 and is nearing the end of term in June 2010. The following achievements have been enlisted so far:

Community organization for catchment conservation
• In liaison with the Water Resources Management Authority, Rift Valley Catchment Area Regional Office (WRMA-RVCARO) which is the lead government water management authority, a Water Resource Users’ Association (WRUA) has been established and is responsible for the management of water and related resources in the catchment. This is a multi-stakeholder local institution responsible for facilitating conservation and equitable distribution of water resources within Lake Bogoria catchment. Water catchment degradation, water shortage and subsequent conflicts rated high among the key issues at the inception of the project. The Water Act 2002 of the laws of Kenya provides for community participation in water resource management which formed the basis of the creation of the WRUA to address these issues, among others. The project initiated a rigorous process of mobilizing the residents of the catchment, facilitating the formation of grassroots institutions, building the relevant capacities, integrating within the legal framework and creating strong partnerships. This has culminated in a credible institution recognized by the central government and funded shortly before June 2009. The effectiveness of WRUA was clearly demonstrated by the following achievements:
- WRUA has facilitated the implementation of irrigation by-laws which regulate water use and emphasise on the conservation of water catchment areas leading to the availability of water in the entire length of River Waseges between August 2008 and January 2009. This has not happened during the last decade because this is peak irrigation period in the upper catchment usually characterized by water shortages and conflicts.
- Through dialogue and facilitated exchange visits among the water users, no conflict within the catchment, including the politically instigated violence, has been reported.
- Through the intervention of WRUA, a Community Forest Association (CFA) at the head of River Waseges is fully operational and have stopped further deforestation, secured the recognition of the Kenya Forest Service and has gained the confidence of the community living around the forest. This means that the community is now the custodians of the water catchment and the hosts to the source of the life-saving river.
- Water conservation has been accepted as a means of improving livelihoods and key to eliminating water-related conflicts in the catchment. Over six hundred water pans with a capacity of approximate 240 m3 have been constructed and continue at a rate of about twelve a month.
- The much reduced workforce of the line ministries are taking advantage of WRUA’s capacity to mobilize community into action – a demonstration of the confidence the community have in the association.
• Two community-managed financial institutions and a multi-purpose cooperative society have been established. Also two swamps are now under the control and management of the community-based on the enforcement of traditional approaches for the effective management of these ecosystems.
• There is widespread awareness on environmental matters including environmental statutes. Although the meaning of Integrated River Basin Management (IRBM) may not be clear to the members of the community, certainly the principles are reflected in the actions of the majority. The majority of the residents have basic knowledge of the environmental statutes.

Development and progress in the implementation of Lake Bogoria Integrated Management Plan
• An Integrated Management Plan (IMP) for Lake Bogoria National Reserve was produced, adopted and ratified by the tow local authorities (Koibatek and Baringo County Councils) who constitute the Joint Management Committee that oversees the management of the National Reserve. As a pioneer initiative, it is now a requirement for all the other local authorities in Kenya to follow suit. In addition, the National Reserve has incorporated some of the activities in its annual budget as a way of starting to implement the plan. All the key stakeholders that did participate in the development of the Integrated Management Plan have taken up their roles and responsibilities. The implementation of the Lake Bogoria IMP is a major component in the programme’s exit strategy. The implementing partners consisting mainly of the line ministries have taken up their roles as a result of efforts by the project to integrate IRBM. These include soil and water conservation, on-farm tree planting, riverbank protection and support offered to community-based institutions involved in conservation. The Councils have the responsibility of coordinating these activities but do not yet have the capacity due to the frequent changes in their composition and office mandates.

Capacity building and enhancement of conservation partnership
• The key government departments, conservation agencies and local community representatives have been trained on relevant environmental statutes and policies to provide expertise support for an Integrated River Basin Management process. The project has entered into a formal working relationship with the Water Resources Management Authority Rift Valley Regional Office and other stakeholders to ensure early sustainability of the WRUA. In an effort to enhance sustainability, some of the livelihood activities initiated and supported during the earlier phases have been devolved to other local development agencies.
• There is a strengthened partnership with key stakeholders, including the Ministry of Water and Irrigation, Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, Provincial Administration, Local Authority, Wildlife Clubs of Kenya, Netherlands Development Organisation (SNV), RECONCILE and Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife.
• The WRUA which consists of representatives of all the stakeholders in the catchment has been adopted and funded by the Ministry of Water as was planned initially to prepare them to develop a Sub-Catchment Management Plan (SCMP) based on which future water conservation activities will be undertaken. WRUA has taken on fully conflict management and coordination of water catchment conservation in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture and Kenya Forest Service.

Change towards sustainable conservation
• There is now a clear link between conservation and enhanced livelihoods. Overall there is goodwill, commitment and general change in attitude towards conservation in the project area.

Policy change on tourism revenue sharing
• A key local policy change during the earlier project was the agreement to share the Lake Bogoria National Reserve revenue between the community and the County Councils of Baringo and Koibatek, under who’s jurisdiction the LBNR is vested. There is a further increase of 2% from the agreed 4% (and zero % before WWF intervention) to support school bursaries, with over KES 10 million (USD 145,000) shared so far.

Stable Greater Kudu population
• Although the precise estimate of the Greater Kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros) population is not known, regular sightings indicates stability, with an estimate of 180 by December 2006.

Documentation and lesson sharing
• This aspect of project implementation has been limited to reporting, sharing of experiences through inter-visits among the fresh water programmes, video clips and a small number of publications. Despite the importance of documentation of field experiences, time has always been limited and materials that resulted in change at the project level were developed and used effectively. Through these initiatives there has been good interaction between the project, its partners and WWF programmes in the area.

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