An evaluation of community utilization, conservation and perception of a Kenyan wetland; a case study of the Yala Swamp

Romulus Abila

This team of students from the Maseno University College, will work in the Yala Swamp - Lake Kanyaboli wetland, Western Kenya. They aim to evaluate the role the local community currently plays and can play in the management and conservation of this wetland. The project will also compile a preliminary species inventory and carry out a basic habitat assessment of the area. The information obtained will be used to plan and execute a community based conservation programme where the local community takes a central role in the implementation of conservation initiatives.

Project update: 27/3/97. This project comprising of a group of undergraduates from Maseno University College was led by a Kenyan lecturer from that institution who had prior experience conducting research on the Yala Swamp, a rare wetland ecosystem of western Kenya. The swamp affords an almost unique habitat for the endangered Sitatunga antelope (Tragelecaphalus spekii), and one of the lakes the swamp comprises contains an endangered tilapia (Oreochromis esculentus) and other haplochromine cichlids no longer found in Lake Victoria due to Nile Perch predation. The wetland is not protected and open to exploitation, and as a primary source of livelihood for local communities which depend upon the Yala swamp, the long term aim of the project is to initiate a conservation programme with a community management approach. The specific objectives of the project are to undertake species inventories of the swamp, examine the past and current relationship of local communities with the wetland, and identify the threats to species and habitats and the sources of pressure. The projected outcome of the project was that information gathered would shed light on how the local communities might become involved in biodiversity conservation and sustainable use of the Yala swamp resources, with a view to establishing a community based conservation programme. The project leader has since been using the information gathered to make contact with key organisations in Kenya, such as the Kenya Wetlands Working Group, and the Kenya Netherlands Wetland Programme. Further funding is being sought for the biodiversity component of the project and also to involve more project partners. The Yala swamp project has been extensively covered by the Kenyan press.