Breaking News – Kenya’s Yala Swamp under threat of drying up as drought bites and rice growers divert water


An investor in growing rice in Kenya has found themselves at cross roads – and crossing swords – with the environmental community, when it became known that the single inflow of water of the River Yala has been largely blocked and diverted to water the rice fields. This measure, illegal as it is to start with, has shown a prompt impact on the Yala Swamps and on Lake Kanyaboli, where the water levels have fallen and in particular sections of the Yala Swamps dried up.

Dominion Farms was exposed earlier this week as the main culprit and conservationists have appealed to the local administration and government at large to immediately intervene and stop the investor from interfering with the water flows and the environment.

Yala Swamp, though no national park but ‘only’ a national reserve, albeit also managed by the Kenya Wildlife Service, may be an upcoming attraction in Western Kenya for tourist visitors wishing to ‘pay homage’ to the paternal village of US President Barack Obama, and while in this part of Kenya then also take time to see for instance the rare Sitatunga gazelle, which is found in the Yala Swamps.

The accusations have rocked the company management and one source claims they swiftly opened gates and blockages when the news broke to get away with their previous deeds, while the company blamed low water levels in the river for the problems downstream for the swamp and the lake, an explanation largely dismissed by a conservation source in Nairobi who said: ‘yes there is a drought again, but the problem for Yala and Lake Kanyaboli is made much worse by the rice grower diverting the little water there is. It is the diversion which is making the problem so bad, if the river could just be left alone these ecosystems could still survive’.

He also advised the company not to use boreholes to feed the rice fields as this too would lower the water table but seek to tap into the waters of Lake Victoria and pump from there.

12 Responses

  1. Pardon me for being practical, but do you not recognize any benefit from 90,000 tons of rice and 10M KG of tilapia being produced at the farm, and the jobs it has created?
    How do you propose that the African continent be fed?

  2. You embrace wholesome concepts, and reject others you find distasteful, but you have yet to propose a plan to feed the world’s 7 billion people. I share your sentiments, but we have egregiously overpopulated this planet to such a degree that all solutions have negative consequences. Actually, a lot of corn seed is genetically modified, is more resistant to disease and weather extremes, and produces higher yields. The African continent in particular is heading for disaster, with shifting weather patterns, less arable land, and unchecked population growth. Very sad. Finally, the genius who conceived the Dominion project has wholesome intentions, although I doubt I could convince you of that.

    1. Take comfort in the fact that I published your contribution. When I wear my conservation hat you will indeed have a challenge at hand to convince me of the altruistic motives of the scheme but when I wear my academic hat I am always giving solid logical argument a fair chance. Thank you for reading my blog and my articles on and for your contributions, past and future.

  3. I am published with some regularity in The Economist and other notable publications. I am pleased to have come across your blog, as you seem to be a balanced thinker, and I earnestly seek foreign perspectives on American activities. I look forward to further dialog on issues of mutual interest.
    In closing, Calvin Burgess of Dominion has been a personal friend for almost 30 years and I personally vouch for his good character. Cycles of floods and droughts have plagued this project, the only constant being the expenses of graft and corruption.
    Feel free to e-mail me so I can learn more about what you do.
    Cordially, Veggo Larsen

  4. I have just emailed you as requested and find it refreshing to have a dialogue going instead what I often see just much being thrown at my pieces without giving logic and reasoned argument a chance. Feel free to share this with your friend Calvin who is welcome to contact me too of course – I can learn and do in fact, my entire life already and there is no end in sight to learn more again.

  5. Calvin won’t be involved – he is fiercely private and I have fielded attacks toward him in print media. Yes, he pilots his own aircraft and has been criticized for hit and run trips to Kenya, but he travels without bodyguards, and you understand that a wealthy white American in Kenya wears a bullseye on his back, without a single thought that he is enabling a measurable addition the the nation’s food supply. He is aware of the personal risks, and continues against strong discouragement from his wife. He doesn’t need to do this, trust me. He had chosen me to lead his development of a large scale palm oil farm outside Mombassa,but he will do it instead in a west African country, largely because the curruption, bribery, and graft in Kenya make business there, business that feeds Kenyans, almost impossible. Tell that you your elected officials, if you dare.

  6. Hi wolfang,
    For sure Calvin is great as a person bt very temperemental.i hv worked with d.f.l.,as the first administrator 04 to 07. whn i gt fired.
    one major problem with the farm has bn non perfoming managers,whom whn calvin is to visit the farm,they wld do everything within their way to pls hm.i remember sm where in 07,i did made a report regarding exorbitant human resource which was introduced by ronald,this became a big story with lots critics. weeding thro out the year in the name of gving employment to locals….?loss loss! To be frank,i hv a court cause with hm DFL,bt thn it stl hurts me since i dnt see why the farm shld underperform.the high expenditure within the company has nt been human resource,fuel and theft i dispute tht 100%.C.B. has nt understood Africa,nt only Kenya.Irespective of colour of the managers,creed or religion,he has nt understood the on goings at his farm.i once tried to explain to hm after having left the company,he dwn thn eventualy he gt part of

  7. …it was too late the damage had bn done.i hv alot of respect fr hm,bt he needs quite alot of workplan changes.with the reclaimed land,i blv he shld hv making great returns…also,jst localy,we hv people who cn turn around tht farm,bt he needs to consult widely.I am sorry to be tht bold,bt tht is the position.from Joyce’ generation it has bn a failure.i am nt asking fr a come back,bt if given,i wl take and base the pay cheque on wht i cn produce with my team! i blv i hv wht it secret is the tool to use.
    Say hello and best wishes.
    thank you.

  8. Calvin being tempermental? Never have I heard him raise his voice or curse in 30 years, nor discharge competent staff.
    Adam, why were you fired?

  9. that is an interesting topic you have posted but do you happen to have specific anthropogenic activities affecting river Yala since this is one river that has been greately ignored as compared to other e.g Nyando and Nzoia