A plan for companies and the local community to co-exist in the Tana River Delta has been finalised, offering a boost for investors eyeing the region.
Government officials said Monday the Tana River Delta Land Use Plan to be launched on Thursday had laid a framework for resource sharing on the 225,000 hectares of the coastal land.
“We settled for a hybrid zoning strategy: commercial development and local economic practices such as cattle grazing, farming and fishing, meaning non-interference in the communities’ livelihoods,” inter-ministerial technical committee chairman Peter Odhengo said yesterday at a stakeholders’ meeting in Nairobi.
The committee, formed in 2011, developed the master plan that covers 20 years, divided into five-year implementation terms.
In the plan, the land is divided into upper Delta to host irrigation farms, urban development and industrial estates while the lower part will be for grazing, tourism and wildlife conservation.
Mr Odhengo said the plan had removed uncertainties for investors since the committee had conducted a strategic environment assessment required by National Environment Management Authority, expediting investment.
“With the plan, investors will know what and where to set up operations based on our studies unlike in the past where it was largely trial and error,” he said, adding that locals would be involved in the commercial projects.
State-backed projects in the past decade have largely been unsuccessful and have been met by lawsuits and protests from surrounding fishermen, herdsmen and farmers citing non-inclusion.
The local communities — largely Orma and Pokomo — have in the past protested against Mumias Sugar’s plans to grow cane on 20,000 hectares.
Tana Delta is the country’s largest wetland fed by Tana River.
The government has been piloting various projects through the Tana and Athi River Development Authority.
Canadian Bedford Biofuels failed in its mission to grow jatropha plants for biodiesel on 164,000 hectares after securing a 45-year lease agreement in the early 2000s.
UK-based G4 Industries, which was looking to grow oil and seed crops, also pulled out in 2011 citing issues with the soil type and mismanagement of Delta’s resources.
“We are going to collaborate,” Tana River Governor Hussein Dado said at the event.
The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Principal Secretary Richard Lesiyampe said that the government had allocated Sh251 million ($2.5 million) for the project.
In 2013, the High Court made a ruling requiring local people to be involved in all development plans for the fragile Tana River Delta.
Conflicts over resources have resulted in repeated clashes pitting farmers against pastoralists as increasing international investors scramble for land in the area for large-scale farming of food and biofuel crops.
The Delta which is home to more than 100,000 people mostly fishermen, herdsmen and farmers, is a key biodiversity area and is Kenya’s newest Ramsar site -an important area for birds and wildlife.