Despite progress at the micro level with initiatives like those of Delta Dunes Lodge and the Lower Tana Delta Trust, the threats to the Tana Delta region seem to be accumulating. After the failure of a highly damaging irrigation and rice-growing project in the 1990s, the latest, environmentally disastrous, idea is a gigantic biofuel project, that would carpet more than 200 square kilometres of bush and flood land with sugar-cane plantations for cheap ethanol – plans that may not be entirely prevented by the delta being recently put under international protection as Kenya’s sixth Ramsar Site – a wetlands area of global importance.
Competition for scarce resources is also pitching communities against each other: in 2012 and 2013, more than one hundred people from the pastoralist Orma and farming Pokomo communities were killed in alternate raids on each other’s villages, sparked by disputes over water and grazing rights. There were fresh attacks in 2014, when gunmen claiming to be part of the Islamist group Al-Shabaab attacked a passenger bus and several villages in Tana River and Lamu counties, killing 87 people. Though no foreign visitors were affected, travel advisories were still warning against visiting the region as this book went to print and if you’re travelling by private vehicle, the police may require you to travel in convoy anywhere east of Garsen. Wherever you are hoping to visit, it’s a good idea to seek local advice before attempting an independent excursion to the area.