TANA RIVER

STRUGGLES FOR SURVIVAL

Kenya's most important waterway, the Tana River, is fast straining to cope with unprecedented pressure from dams, irrigation, water-thirsty Nairobi and drought. 

The stakes for Kenya are high: the 1000km-long river provides half of the country's electricity and 80 percent of Nairobi's water. 

The dwindling water volume in the river, coupled with a current lack of rain, is taking the heaviest toll on communities in the Tana Delta.

Muhammed Nassar, in the Rivaldo jersey, and others from the village of Kau fetch water from Tana River. In 2013, during tribal clashes between farmers and pastoralists over access to resources like pasture and water, Kau was burned to the ground, killing three. 

Fishermen return from the Indian Ocean with their catch after a night of fishing. Fishing in the river delta has become almost non-existent because of decreasing water levels, sediment and destruction of mangroves, where fish reproduce. But locals don't have the funds to afford sea-worthy boats and nets.

"I worry that we won't be able to survive here."

- Abdu Hajy, fisherman

Hajy (left), 65, and his fishing partner, Michael Mwangona, 50, have been fishing in the Tana River delta for the last four decades. Just five years ago, Hajy says he could catch about 40 kg of fish a day. These days, he’s lucky to get 10 kg.

“What can we do?

Let our cows die?”

- Suleiman Abdi, pastoralist

Abdi, 18, has seen a third of his family’s cattle die since the start of the drought last year. 

 

Abdi takes the remaining ones (pictured left) to feed in the mangrove forests along the Tana River delta, where cows can eat tree seedlings. 

 

Farmers from the riverside village of Kilunguni clear brush to make way for growing crops. But with the ongoing drought and depletion of water in the Tana River, this year's harvests have almost completely failed. 

Hija Issa, 23, stands in the doorway to her bedroom in her old house, which was destroyed during tribal clashes in 2013 between farming and pastoralist communities. During the fighting, her village, Kau, was burned to the ground, killing three.

The remains of a house in the riverside town of Kau, which was destroyed during fighting between pastoralists and farmers in 2013. 

Muhammed Nasser, a farmer from the riverside village of Kau, walks along his rice fields. Due to the ongoing drought, which has been compounded by water management issues upstream, his harvests have largely failed. 

Amina Mohammed, 25, collects firewood in the mangrove forests that line the Tana River delta. Mohammed and a few dozen other women make a living selling firewood to the town of Kipini.

Isaya Titus, a member of the Kipini Community Conservation Management Forum, patrols just outside the mangrove forests on the banks of the Tana River delta. He is looking for illegal loggers and poachers. 

Amina Mohammed (right) and two friends start the three kilometer walk to the mangrove forests in the distance where they collect firewood to sell and use.