Authored by Brad Czerniak

Lake Victoria's Yala Wetland is made up of mainly papyrus (Cyperus papyrus) stands. It is an internationally recognized Important Bird Area that hosts many bird species found only in papyrus stands, some of which can only be found in Lake Victoria swamps. Two of these birds, papyrus yellow warbler (Chloroptera gracilinostris) and papyrus gonolek (Laniarius mufumbiri) are listed as globally threatened species which require urgent conservation action.1 The swamp provides social, economic and ecological benefits, values and functions to the community and its biodiversity. These include being a habitat for wildlife such as the rare semi aquatic antelope, the Sitatunga (Tragelaphus spekii), Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius), African python (Python sebae) and wetlands specialist birds.

The Yala wetland complex, which is the largest papyrus wetland in Kenya, is known for its birds and for several satellite lakes that are home to fish species that long-ago disappeared in Lake Victoria. The complex is facing human threats such as wetland reclamation for agriculture, papyrus over-harvesting for the cottage industry, poaching, burning for fishing and settlement. According to Kenya's IBAs Status and Trends report 2004, agricultural encroachment threatens 50 percent of the wetland sites and 46 percent of the total number of sites in Kenya.

This project was created to enable the conservation of Yala Wetland through grass-roots mobilization and partnerships to deliver habitat surveys about the current status of the ecosystem in the face of ongoing threats; establish consistent grass-roots detailed monitoring schemes for the wetland; habitat restoration; showcase nature based-enterprises to alleviate human pressure from the wetland; training of a site conservation group; and conservation education and public awareness for attitudinal and behaviour change for wetland conservation.

1. Birdlife International, IBAs Status Report, 2004