Friends of Lake Turkana is the focal point for the East African Indigenous Peoples (IP) Think Tank which has a mission to increase public participation and promote fair debate on critical social, economic and environmental issues affecting indigenous peoples of East Africa in both national and international forums.
The goal is to work in coalitions and networks to strengthen social movements, especially as we forge multi-cultural, cross-border and cross-focus area alliances. As a think tank our work is unique (in that we are bringing new approaches to social change including the awareness of economic, social and cultural rights) as we work with grass roots indigenous constituencies and help bridge policy think tanks with activist networks and social movements and strengthen the solidarity and cooperation of indigenous organizations and communities in East Africa.
The think tank engages in 4 main areas of interrelated work to encourage indigenous participate in decision making on issues that affect their lives.
1. Movement and Organizational Strengthening- To facilitate and coordinate priority activities and the implementation of a set of programs as well as to carry out information dissemination work in order to strengthen indigenous women’s movements in East Africa.
2. Capacity Building - to assist the East African IP members and networks in strengthening their capacity and skills to address the challenges they face through building organizations, stronger collective leadership, and better organizational management.
3. Indigenous Women- empowering the indigenous women through networking, education and capacity building activities. One of the objectives of this programme is to promote awareness of indigenous women’s rights for them to be able to effectively participate in decision making at all levels, from their communities, to the national, regional and international levels. It is imperative for the East African IP Think Tank to strengthen the mainstreaming of women’s issues and concerns and ensure greater engagement and participation of indigenous women in all the programme activities,
4. Research - This comparative research builds upon academic research and action-researchers in local networks; both indigenous and non-indigenous to critically inform debates on indigenous and customary rights in legislation and policy, both to facilitate local action platforms and to influence law- and policy-makers
Globally there has been an increase in concern over the environmental degradation and the need for greater environmental protection and management.
All ecosystems of the world are potentially affected by man’s activities, but wetlands are especially fragile and often neglected. Wetlands are neither well understood nor appreciated and have been increasingly under natural and human pressures in all parts of the globe and especially in Africa.
The GIBE III project is one of a series of damming projects that have been undertaken by the Ethiopian government. The Gibe III hydroelectric project on the Omo River is a public-private partnership planned as a 25year national energy master plan of Ethiopia. The planned increase in power generation, however far exceeds domestic needs with the surplus which is estimated at fifty percent being exported to the neighboring countries including Kenya which the Ethiopian Electric Power Company (EEPCo) predicts to export 500MW to.
The Omo River is a transboundary river that contributes at least 80 percent of the waters of Lake Turkana. Its terminus is at northern end of Kenya’s Lake Turkana, and most of the Omo Delta is in Kenya. A sharp reduction in the Omo’s downstream flow volume would cause a significant retreat of Lake Turkana.
An assessment of the overall impact of the proposed Gibe III project on the Lake Turkana, in Kenya must begin with the direct impact of the reduced flow into the lake, since the Omo River is the major source of water for Lake Turkana. Reduction in flow volume from reservoir filling would be the primary impact.
Based on a combination of calculations from satellite imagery, and published flow data, it is reasonable to say that the effect of the flow on the Lake Turkana can be established. Therefore, concluding that over the first five years, there would be a loss of about 53.5km3 of water from the lake, corresponding to a drop of about 7 meters. This should be considered as a conservative estimate: an alternative estimate, based on other available data is 10meters.
Using bathymetric data for Lake Turkana, it is possible to predict that the Omo delta and the northern section of the lake will desiccate, and the shorelines would recede to almost the halfway point, southward along the lake. A salinity increase in the lake is likely to severely affect the aquatic salinity of the lake which is already barely portable. Concentrations of the ions in the lake will. The effect of this is increased concentration on fish populations and on the usefulness of the lake for watering livestock and for human consumption will need to be determined. In turn the region’s livelihood systems-particularly those of the Turkana, Dassanech, Rendille., Samburu and other groups in Kenya would be significantly impacted as they are dependant upon recession cultivation, lakeside livestock grazing and watering at the lake, and fishing.
The Omo Delta and northern shoreline area have long provided habitat for a unique abundance of hippopotamus and Nile crocodile, with extraordinary numbers of water birds. This entire area would be the first part of Lake Turkana to undergo major destruction of habitat and wildlife. Consequently, the unique floral and faunal systems of Lake Turkana would likely be threatened with major destruction. The lake is now internationally recognized, including as a World Heritage Site for its abundance of wildlife, as well as unique floral and fauna species-many of which are barely described or understood, from an ecological perspective.