May 24, 2011
The afternoon of the second day of fish eagle and roadside raptor catching, we were visited by long time Lake Naivasha resident Don Turner. Over the years he has amassed an extensive bird sighting list, having the world record for most bird species sighted in 48 hours. Similar to many of our guest lecturers, he did not have a positive outlook for the Lake, Kenya, or the global climate. He stressed the problems that have started to rise over his lifetime with the Kenyan population increasing from five to forty million, global population doubling, and ocean levels rising faster than the expected one meter in the next thirty years. In the past 25 years since the flower farms moved in, the population around the lake has exploded from 10,000 to half a million, local tourism has steadily decreased, and the lake level has fallen by four meters. As a local, he has seen first hand how the lake ecosystem from one of the top 10 freshwater lakes in the world to what he described as a sewage pond.
Some of the farms take no responsibility for the state of the lake or the condition that the workers live in, often simple shacks made from scrap metal. There is little control over the farm development and no legal action has been taken against them as flowers are one of the largest sources for foreign exchange. When a Management Plan was agreed on with the local municipality for regulating the industry and brought into law, a court injunction was put into place by residents backed by powerful farms. With farm workers only receiving two dollars a day to support themselves as well as their entire dependent family, inflation and monthly increases in food costs forces many people to rely on consuming illegally caught fish and bush meat. Many people rely on charcoal that has been harvested from protected forests, degrading the lake’s watershed and reducing the already low national forest cover of 1.2%, down from 10% in the 1960’s. With such a large unemployed population trying every day for part time labor outside each farm gate, crime has steadily increased. Don recounted a chilling event where three men with assault rifles broke into a compound and stole expensive cameras and laptops from tourists who had been blatant about their wealth.
That evening we visited the Homegrown flower farm, not far from our campsite. Driving through the farm each greenhouse had signs warning of the chemical sprays in progress, most listed as level two on the WHO scale of hazardous material. Much of the blame for the degradation of the lake is placed on increased population, farm worker activities, and deforestation in the surrounding watersheds. On the farm they had a natural water treatment system to filter the water used in the bathrooms. While this filtered around 45 cubic meters of water a day, pumping from the lake is still necessary.
Overall it felt like a very controlled tour, we only went into one greenhouse and did not walk anywhere else besides the water filtration site, compared to KenGen where we visited as much of the facility as possible, the Assistant Manager for Resource Development going out of his way to describe the process. Another interesting day, can’t wait for the next week in the Mara.