Kenya’s Lake Turkana is the terminus of Ethiopia’s Omo River, one of the 6 NWNL case-study watersheds. This January a NWNL expedition spent 4 weeks in Kenya investigating serious upstream threats (of dams and irrigation needs for massive new agricultural plantations) to Lake Turkana, the world’s largest desert lake. The impact of these new schemes could drastically reduce the levels of the lake by half, or more, thus killing off Kenya’s largest fishery.
NWNL returned from this expedition with compelling imagery and interviews from the Lake Turkana’s Ferguson’s Gulf fishing villages; commercial fishing ventures in Kalokol; and Lodwar, Turkana County’s capitol – all on the western shores of Lake Turkana. Ferguson’s Gulf is the major Nile tilapia breeding ground in this lake of 47 fish species, but these shallow waters will quickly dry up when Ethiopia starts filling the reservoir of its Gibe III dam next year.
“We want people to focus on this region’s ecological dependence on this lake, the conflict potential if water levels fall and the national pride for this resource-rich lake that produces 30–40 tons of fish per year for Kenya,” stated Ikal Angelei.
Angelei and Kapua shared with NWNL the most up-to-date details of the challenges facing Lake Turkana, as well as possible actions that could prevent the lake’s water levels from dropping, thus protecting the livelihood of 1/2 million people in the Lower Omo Basin and Lake Turkana Basin. On a broader level, the loss of Lake Turkana’s fisheries would significantly impact the fish-market economy of Kenya. And furthermore, displacement of local indigenous communities from agricultural plantations will cause over-crowding and most likely great conflict in the Ilemi Triangle on the borders of Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya. In this region, where boundaries have never been demarcated, over 12 tribes are dependent on access to water and green grazing lands for their livestock.
To study alternative options for the local indigenous pastoralists and fishermen, NWNL visited development projects west of the lake in Kapenguria and along Muruni River (a tributary of the Turkwell River which flows into Lake Turkana). CABESI projects, visited with directors Rolf Gloor, Mercy Kinyapyap and Paul Losute, included bee-keeping for many honey products, camel husbandry as a more drought-appropriate replacement for cattle and goats, and wild silk production from moths on local acacia. However, if the Lake Turkana water levels drop, that could affect weather in the entire region, adding to the increasing droughts being caused by climate change – and all of these alternative livelihoods depend on at least some water! No Water – No Livelihoods!
Photos taken on NWNL’s recent Omo River Basin Expedition.
All images © Alison M. Jones for www.nowater-nolife.org