Tourism Seen as a Tool to Conserve Threatened Wetlands


Kenya’s fragile wetlands could find help from an initiative to steer more tourists towards their natural wealth under plans timed to coincide with World Wetlands Day on February 2.
Kenya has several wetlands which have contributed immensely to the tourism sector due to their unique biodiversity, which makes a key part of any Kenyan tourism experience.

These include the Ramsar sites; (Lakes Nakuru, Baringo, Elementaita, Bogoria and Naivasha); rivers such as the Mara, Ewaso Ngiro North and South; Swamps including; Shompole, Lorain and Kimana not forgetting the Marine wetlands- coral reefs, mangrove forests, sea grass beds and sandy beaches on the shores of the Indian Ocean that attract both local and International tourists.

Wetland ecosystems are often fragile and those in Kenya in particular have faced serious threats over the years that have seen many of them drastically reduce in size and others completely disappear. Among the threats that wetlands face are; unsustainable agriculture, excessive extraction of water, invasion by alien invasive species, pressure due to rapid human population growth and pollution due to domestic , industrial and agricultural discharge and lapses in policy implementation which have accelerated encroachment and degradation of these fragile ecosystems.

This in turn has affected communities whose livelihoods are entirely dependent on wetlands and their resources. Hence a need to ensure that these resources are well managed and used wisely.
As Kenya implements the government’s Vision 2030, which seeks to increase the country’s Gross Domestic Product by contributing more than KShs 200 billion through the tourism sector; consideration should be given to how sustainable wetland tourism can contribute to this growth.

This year’s World Wetlands Day theme, “Wetlands and Tourism” puts emphasis to the delivery of Vision 2030. It is time to facilitate sustainable management and development of our wetlands by engaging in appropriate land use planning practices. Perhaps it is an opportunity for policy makers, economic sectors, wetland managers, tourism operators and communities to fully integrate policies and plans that will help improve the livelihoods of communities dependent on wetlands. There are so many possibilities…
Foot notes;
2nd February marks the day different countries signed an agreement known as “The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance”, in 1971 in the city of Ramsar in Iran. Kenya signed this agreement in 1990.

Kenya Wetlands Forum (KWF) is a multi-stakeholder institution that is working to ensure Kenya’s wetlands are conserved and managed within the wise use principles of the Ramsar Convention for the present and future generations.

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By Catherine Yaa, Kenya Wetlands Forum

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Kenya Wetlands Forum (Secretariat) is housed at The East African Wildlife Society (EAWS).

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