Ecosystem-friendly livelihoods for wetland-dependent communities in Kenya

Maurice Ogoma
Published: 30 July 2018
Last edited: 01 October 2020
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Yala wetland communities are dependent on the ecosystem goods and services offered by the wetland for their livelihoods; mainly small-holder subsistence agriculture. In the recent past, farmers have experienced reduced crop production human, an increase of wildlife conflicts, and continuous drought and floods are accelerating local poverty and food insecurity. In order to reverse some of these effects, we identified and piloted in a participatory process alternative livelihoods that are less wetland-destructive and environmentally friendly. These included agroforestry, sustainable farming and water harvesting techniques that would be sustainable under the changing climatic conditions.


East and South Africa
Scale of implementation
Freshwater ecosystems
Pool, lake, pond
River, stream
Wetland (swamp, marsh, peatland)
Biodiversity mainstreaming
Ecosystem services
Habitat fragmentation and degradation
Local actors
Sustainable livelihoods
Traditional knowledge
Erratic rainfall
Increasing temperatures
Land and Forest degradation
Loss of Biodiversity
Conflicting uses / cumulative impacts
Lack of access to long-term funding
Lack of alternative income opportunities
Lack of technical capacity
Lack of public and decision maker’s awareness
Lack of infrastructure
Lack of food security
Unemployment / poverty
Sustainable development goals
SDG 1 – No poverty
SDG 2 – Zero hunger
SDG 3 – Good health and well-being
SDG 6 – Clean water and sanitation
SDG 13 – Climate action
SDG 15 – Life on land
Aichi targets
Target 1: Awareness of biodiversity increased
Target 2: Biodiversity values integrated
Target 5: Habitat loss halved or reduced
Target 6: Sustainable management of aquatic living resources
Target 7: Sustainable agriculture, aquaculture and forestry
Target 10: Ecosystems vulnerable to climate change
Target 14: Ecosystem services
Target 15: Ecosystem restoration and resilience
Target 17: Biodiversity strategies and action plans
Sendai Framework
Target 1: Reduce global disaster mortality by 2030
Target 2: Reduce the number of affected people globally by 2030
Target 3: Reduce direct disaster economic loss in relation to GDP by 2030
Target 4: Reduce disaster damage to critical infrastructure and disruption of basic services, among them health and educational facilities, including through developing their resilience by 2030


Yala wetlands, Lake Victoria, Kenya


Environmental challenges:

The solution addresses continuous destruction of wetland vegetation through wetland encroachment and livelihood activities such as uncontrolled wetland farming, burning of papyrus vegetation, unsustainable papyrus harvesting, overgrazing on wetland areas during drought. Other challenges addressed include overfishing and human setllement on wetland habitats, sand harvesting along river banks and papyrus wetland areas and poaching.


Social challenges:

The solution also addresses food insecurity among the local people, human-wildlife conflicts and hunger.


Economic challenges:

The solution addresses poverty among the local people by promoting alternative livelihood activities that are sustainable and income generating.


Local communities of all genders: women, youth and men

How do the building blocks interact?

Stakeholders can be used to identify areas that need resilient and sustainable livelihood activities. Through stakeholder engagement, livelihoods and climate challenges are identified and potential solutions reached, leading to the development of a community-based action plan. The action plan can be adopted and sustainable livelihood options ranked.

Stakeholders identify the best places for learning and exchange.

Stakeholders are identified to attend the exchange visits and learn practically how livelihood resilience activities have worked elsewhere.

Exhange visits help stakeholders develop skills that are used locally to build up on sustainable activities that increase resilience with respect to agricultural production and biodiversity conservation.


  • Three (3) community based climate adaptation action plans (CBAP) developed to guide implementation of challenges in wetland agricultural landscapes including human-wildlife conflicts, flooding and drought.
  • Three (3) climate and ecosystem-friendly livelihoods identified: agroforestry, sustainable water harvesting and sustainable farming. Training manuals developed and used to train more than 90 community members in three (3) villages.
  • New water well sunk in Nyadorera village to support small scale irrigation and provide watering point for community members during dry seasons directly benefiting ten (10) households and helping in reducing human-wildlife conflicts in Yala wetlands area.
  • Woodlot established, water harvesting tank provided at Barolengo Sec. School to provide water for irrigating seedlings during dry spells.
  • 500m2 agroforestry woodlot established as windbreak for protection (crop and buildings) against strong winds and to provide refuge for some local biodiversity. The woodlot also planted with multiple benefit trees (e.g. fruits, firewood, poles) for community use.
  • Community well rehabilitated, secured by fencing providing water to 15 households during drought hence reducing human-wildlife conflicts


Maurice Ogoma

Wetlands in Lake Victoria and Kenya at large have been targeted for human and economic development by the local communities, who depend on them almost entirely as source of their livelihoods. I was raised up in such a family and my parents drew wetland resources such as fish, papyrus reeds, and were depending on the rich soil in the wetland areas for seasonal farming. However, the once productive Yala wetlands have been witnessing crop destruction from wild animals like wild pigs, prolonged drought periods and frequent flooding, all of which negatively affect the traditional livelihoods. During these periods, croplands are being destroyed, people have poor access to clean water for domestic and livestock use, and increasingly using inorganic fertilizers in farms close to the wetlands. This project has turned tables for the participating families and the water wells that used to run dry in the village have been rehabilitated to provide water for the families. The agroforestry woodlot is also providing a haven for small wildlife species e.g. mongoose, rats. mice etc. on land that used to lie fallow.The local Barolengo secondary school was provided with a water storage tank to water seedlings, which are planted by students in the compound during drought. The use of certified drought tolerant cassava and sweet potato crops have now been replicated by farmers locally to ensure food security among local households.

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