News / 12 September 2016

Women claim back the Tana Delta

When governments assign areas for development purposes such as mining or large-scale agricultural production, often women are affected most. Women are often responsible for their family's food security, relying on access to natural resources such as land and water. At the same time, women have little or no access to decision-making procedures. By empowering women in the Kenyan Tana Delta, Both ENDS' partner Nature Kenya has effectively build counterpower and convinced local and national decision makers of the necessity to include women in land use planning.

Development in the Tana Delta
The Tana Delta is characterised by a unique biodiversity where about 100.000 farmers, fishers, and nomads live and work. The natural resources such as land and water are crucial for their sustainable livelihoods. Since 2007, the Kenyan government has been issuing permits to local and foreign investors to use the Tana Delta land to grow commercial biofuel crops such as sugar cane and Jatropha curcas.

Both ENDS supported Nature Kenya in mounting an advocacy campaign to promote conservation and traditional livelihoods in the Delta. Nature Kenya visited individual households in the area to inform them about the impacts of the proposed large scale commercial developments on their current land use and to collect community views on the land use plan.

Women's voices are not heard in Land Use Planning
During these visits, Nature Kenya noticed that women had almost no access to any of the decision-making procedures in the delta.

In many parts of rural Kenya women form the backbone of household food security. Women deal with land tenure and activities such as the provision of water, growing vegetables and herbs, and farming activities, on a daily basis. At the same time, they have limited access to information about their land user rights and impacts of land use changes. Together with their limited participation in governance procedures, this makes women very vulnerable to the impacts of environmental degradation and land grabbing.

Engaging Women in the Delta
In order to include women's voices in the land use planning process, Nature Kenya focussed on women in community meetings, requiring local leaders to include at least 30 percent women in all meetings. This progress ensured that women's needs were at the centre of the land use plan. In addition, women groups were targeted in the implementation of pilot livelihood activities such as beekeeping, kitchen gardening, and poultry farming to increase their confidence and their income.

So, information provision and capacity building towards women was combined with the creation of political space for women to articulate and materialize their claims to land and user rights of resources in the relevant decision-making processes. This way, women will be a strong counterpower, making sure that development plans not only benefit the lucky few but also the most vulnerable groups in Kenya.

The result: a land use plan with broad support
In 2011 Nature Kenya successfully lobbied for the government to coordinate in the preparation of the Tana Delta Land Use Plan (2015) to make sure the interests of all affected stakeholders are taken into account. As a result, the land use plan is a negotiated document that is endorsed by national and county governments, and local communities.

The land use plan contains agreements about the use of water, which areas are assigned for private development and which are for local use. And: a large part of the delta will stay untouched, creating a home for many threatened bird species.


Read more:
12 September 2016: The Strength of Counterpower
Nature Kenya, 31 October 2014: Where land, sea and river meet – the Tana River Delta

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