Omo River BasinExpedition


January 2013


Boats at a tilapia fish market, a Turkana fishermen’s coop

Jan 6: Travel Day NYC, USA to Nairobi, Kenya (7,363 mi/11,850 km)

Jan 7: In Nairobi – Focus on confirming Lake Turkana expedition details

  • Meeting: Kim Edmunds, film editor and safari guide

Jan 8: In Nairobi – Focus on gathering information on Lake Turkana

  • Meeting: Patricia and James Robertson, former Turkana residents (1967–72)
  • Meeting: Dr. Julie Church, Marine Biologist, on intersect of fresh and marine waters

Bonnie Muench (NWNL Photographer) arrives in Nairobi

Jan 9: In Nairobi – Focus on gathering information on Lake Turkana

  • Meeting: Dr. Julie Church, Marine Biologist, on L. Turkana and L. Naivasha outlets

Jan 10: In Nairobi – Focus on gathering information on Lake Turkana


  • Nigel Pavitt, Kenyan author, historian, photographer: “The Gibe 3 Dam will move out huge amounts of people, and new sugar plantations on the Omo River will drastically impact the millet farming by the Dassanech on the river banks and delta of the Omo River.”
  • Tim Tucker, Kenya safari guide
  • Nicky Blundell Brown, with Friends of AMREF (African Medical & Research Foundation)
  • Rupert Watson, conservation lawyer, author, fisherman and recent Lake Turkana visitor

Jan 11: In Nairobi – Focus on final expedition preparations

January 12–16: PART I: KAPENGURIA

Bags of charcoal for sale on roadside, contributing to deforestation

Jan 12: Travel Day Nairobi to Kapenguria, via Eldoret and Kitale (267 mi/338 km)

  • Meeting: Rolf Gloor, Biologist & CABESI Project Leader

Jan 13: In Kapenguria – Focus on CABESI’s cash-economy alternatives to pastoralism

  • Read 3 books by Rolf Gloor on beekeeping, camels and wild silk projects
  • INTERVIEW Rolf Gloor, Biologist, CABESI Project Leader:
    • On Turkana economy: “Charcoal burning is illegal, but it is the trade of the day.”
    • On solutions: “Local government should be involved in grassroots by researching people’s needs and then involving the people in process of addressing changes needed.”
  • INTERVIEW Agnetta Jeptoo, Maraquet college graduate seeking career with NGO

Local children with buckets used to capture beeswax

Jan 14: In Kapenguria: Visit CABESI Market Place: This multi-faceted, self-help project trains Turkana and Pokot communities in beekeeping, malaria prevention, silk production, camel husbandry, tilapia farms and mango processing. CABESI’s goal is to empower alternative lifestyles to replace pastoralism because now water is scarce; land is over-grazed; and livestock herds suffer from increasingly severe droughts.

  • Document honey, tilapia, bead and leather products
  • INTERVIEW Sylvia Melcesa, of CABESI, making candles, soap, and beaded products
  • INTERVIEW Paul Losute, CABESI Assistant Project Leader, on CABESI and reforestation
  • INTERVIEW Mercy Kiyapyap, CABESI Assistant Project Director, on Pokot gender roles, forest restoration and conflict resolution

Jan 15: Visit Muruni and WeiWei River Basins, crossing Sina and Parkino Rivers (240 mi/386 km)

  • Pokot cash economy (Chepararia maize and tanning shops, Ortum & Sigor markets)
  • Pokot agriculture and furrowed-irrigation (Sebit sand dam; Ortum canal irrigation, Ortum pesticide spraying, Wei Wei Basin’s Italian agricultural scheme)
  • Industrial development in the region (Sebit, cement factory)
  • Education: (Schools supported by USAID and Lutheran Church; Addressing the need “to positively face the challenges of the ever-changing society.”
  • Watershed degradation: Invasive posopis and soil erosion
  • Watershed restoration: Neem tree-planting project
  • Honey Collection Center and Ecotourism Lodge in Lomut
  • “Kitchen Beyond Borders,” a peace initiative in Orwa
  • South Turkana National Reserve

January 16–19: PART II: LODWAR

Pokot woman working at a CABESI bee collection center

Jan 16: Travel Day Kapenguria to Lodwar (292 mi/469 km)

  • Document Nawaitorong Guest House, a Turkana project addressing prostitution by empowering single women and drought victims

Jan 17: Visit Upper Turkwel River and Turkwel Village (40 mi/64km)

  • Document water usage, infrastructure, and flow: earth dams, water tanks and agriculture
  • INTERVIEW Billy Kapua, Friends of Lake Turkana (FoLT), Ass’t Program Leader
    “Where there are water tanks, there are people, and there are goats.”
  • Meet Turkwel Village Chief, David Aleri
    • Document Kosipir, Kalawase and Kalotum Rivers (Turkwel River tributaries)

Visit Lodwar

  • Document economy, energy sources, fish market, food aid, water usage, IDP camps and schools
  • Document Nakwamekwi Catholic Church Primary School tree-planting and solar projects
  • Document invasive prosopis takeover of river beds (Oxfam plan to reduce desertification)

Sacred ibis flying over Central Island on Lake Turkana

Jan 18: Visit Kalokol (63 mi/110 km) Focus on commercial and sustenance fishing in Lake Turkana

Kalokol: This is the closest town to the lake (2 kms away), thus fishing is its main economic activity.

  • Document selling of charcoal and firewood, Tullow Oil Camp and Norad Fish Factory
  • INTERVIEWS Commercial and local BMU Fishermen with Billy Kapua, FoLT

Visit Ferguson Gulf, Natarai Village: Probably the most important Nile tilapia breeding ground in this lake, which has 47 fish species (7 are endemic). The tilapia breeds in these shallows by the ton. Birdlife is abundant, with many European migrants. The Gulf’s water is from recent rain and thus will evaporate in two months from now.

  • INTERVIEW Helen Amanikor, Turkana shopkeeper
  • INTERVIEW Leah Akaru, with Women Depending on Fishing from Lake Turkana

Return to Lodwar to visit office of Friends of Lake Turkana (FoLT)

  • INTERVIEW Billy Kapua, FoLT Ass’t Program Leader, “No Water, No Fish, No Life.”
  • INTERVIEW Ikal Angelei, FoLT Chairman, on local impacts of upstream hydro-dams, irrigation schemes and oil drilling. “We want people to focus on this region’s ecological dependence on this lake, the conflict potential if water levels fall and the national pride for this resource-rich lake that produces 30–40 tons of fish per year for Kenya.”

Jan 19–28: PART III: LAKE TURKANA, ELIYE SPRINGS (aka: Ille Springs)

Jan 19: Travel Day Lodwar to Eliye Springs (40mi/64 km) Focus on aridity and volcanic activity impacts

  • Many fewer people, livestock and trees;
  • Soil erosion, dust, volcanic hills and laval surfaces
  • Several open-sided, tin-roofed sheds serving as dispensaries or clinics
  • Ephemeral riverbeds, with date palms and dry-season wells

Jan 20: At Eliye Springs – Focus on the Turkana lakeshore and its Turkana community

  • Document current high-water levels (due to December rains)
  • INTERVIEW Solomon Adegu, Turkana Guide, on Turkana culture, history, clans, economy, need for water and fish, resource conflicts and threats to the lake’s future

Jan 21: Boat Trip to Lake Turkana’s Central Island and its Crocodile Lake

  • INTERVIEW Solomon Adegu, Turkana Guide, on volcanic nature of Central Island
  • INTERVIEW James Wamwara, Kenya Wildlife Service guard, on future of Central Island. “Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) is planning a resort on the island to pay for KWS rangers there.”

Turkana dancer at Eliye Springs Resort

Jan 22: At Eliye Springs – Focus on local species, water systems and Turkana community traditions

  • Document the irrigation canal from Eliye Springs to next village down the beach
  • Investigate Turkana clans, Nile crocodile and rare Turkana Mud Turtle
  • Document traditional Turkana Dancers (each man singing his own personal song)

Jan 23: At Eliye Springs – Focus on potential oil exploration impacts on fisheries (40-60 species)

  • Meeting: BGP Seismic Oil Exploration Team (from China working for Tullow Oil)
  • INTERVIEW Charles Ekai, Chmn., Eliye Springs Beach Management Unit, on fisheries

Jan 24: Boat Trip to Moiti, on Lake Turkana’s east shore

  • Document bird and crocodile populations
  • Meeting: Moiti’s Turkana fishermen to discuss threats to Lake Turkana

Jan 25: At Eliye Springs – Focus on Turkana people’s livelihoods and water dependence

  • Meeting: Peter Marak, BGP Seismic Exploration, on the 47 BGP cables and Tullow’s pipes. “All pipes go to the lake.”
  • INTERVIEW Solomon Adegu on Eliye Spring’s history, flow, usage and conflict potential
  • Document local Turkana women’s market and Eliye Springs’ water pump

Jan 26: At Eliye Springs – Focus on regional dependence on development aid

  • Meeting: Nakala Korobe, young Turkana boy
  • Study development and food aid in Africa
  • Meet with Solomon Adegu, Turkana guide, to clarify questions
    “If this is the post post-colonial era in Africa, what do we call it?”

Jan 27: At Eliye Springs – Focus on pastoralists’ water resources, education, sanitation and lifestyle

  • Visit Turkana boma (home) in Kenya Oil, a village 20 km from Lake Turkana
  • INTERVIEW Paul Eragae and Mary Ainong, at the village pump and their boma
    “Three of my 6 children go to school so they can support me later. I pay their school fees by cutting down trees to make charcoal to sell.”

Dried riverbed of tributary to Lake Turkana

Jan 28: Travel Day Eliye Springs to Nairobi (432 mi/696 km) Focus on water and grazing-land conflicts

  • Document Kangatosa, Turkwel, and Kalotum Rivers en route to Lodwar
  • Document school, outhouses, vegetation and invasive prosopis en route
  • INTERVIEW Billy Kapua, FoLT, on the Ilemi Triangle conflict:
    “Traditionally 3 nationalities of pastoralists have gone to the Ilemi Triangle water basin in the dry seasons; to graze livestock; but now massive agricultural plantations given to Asians by Ethiopia have forced all Nyangatom pastoralists from the Omo Valley into the Ilemi Triangle. Deadly conflicts occur now as increasing numbers of people and livestock compete for limited water and grazing resources. The solution is for Kenya, Sudan and Ethiopia to mark their boundaries and clarify water rights with fencing for cattle and goats in order to insure peace between the many different tribes that come here with AK-47’s needing water.”


Jan 29: In Nairobi –Focus on upcoming interviews on Turkana and Mara River Basins

Jan 30: In Nairobi –Focus on expedition documentation and further interviews

  • INTERVIEW James Robertson, Conservationist, on Lake Turkana and Mara River Basins
    • On Lake Turkana Region: “The Turkana Wind Farm was required to set aside 240,000 acres of land for conservation.”
    • On Mara River Basin: “As a new, strong umbrella body unifying private conservation efforts and conservancies, the Kenya Land Conservation Association is in a position to create great change and to balance the government’s “Vision 2030” focus on only people, not wildlife.”
    • Document “Orwa,” a 1-year-old elephant at The David Sheldrick Trust’s Elephant Orphanage, orphaned by poachers in the South Turkana National Reserve

Jan 31: In Nairobi –Focus on gathering more Lake Turkana perspectives

  • INTERVIEW Colin Church, Rhino Ark Chair, on fencing the Mara River Basin’s Mau Forest: “The fact that the Mau Reforestation Project is not an issue in the current presidential campaign [election date: March 4] signals that the entire nation finally understands the need for restoration of Kenya’s water towers.
  • Meeting: Kim Edmunds, film editor and safari guide
  • Bonnie Muench departs for USA

Feb 1: In Nairobi – Focus on reviewing Lake Turkana expedition notes and photographs

Feb 2: In Nairobi – Focus on updating the Mara River Basin’s Mau Forest headwaters

Feb 3: In Nairobi –Focus on updating the Mara River Basin’s Mau Forest headwaters

  • INTERVIEW Christian Lambrechts, Rhino Ark Executive Director, on Mau Forest Restoration Project: “I have changed my 2009 opinions to support the effectiveness of fencing sections of the Mau Forest because Kenyans have very quickly grasped the ecological importance of their water resources and thus they now see fencing as a tool that provides water security for the nation.”

Feb 4: Travel Day Nairobi to USA (7,363mi/11,850km) Focus on Mara River and L. Turkana interviews

  • Meeting: Dr. Laly Lichtenfeld and Charles Trout, African People and Wildlife Foundation, on Mara River Basin’s Tanzanian threats of Serengeti Highway and gold mining pollution
  • INTERVIEW Paul Adino at Hog Ranch on the importance of water
  • INTERVIEW Dr. Abigail Church, Geologist, on Lake Turkana’s evolution and its oil deposits: “There are unique concerns about drilling in Lake Turkana, which has no water outflow. Even fine clay used in drilling processes creates turbidity that affects lake fisheries; and chemicals such as cesium are heavy metals. Thus drilling safety measures must be stricter in Lake Turkana than they are for ocean drilling. As an alternative, geothermal energy is a Turkana resource that is both clean and water-efficient. It pumps lots of water deep down in the earth that comes out as steam to be used to generate power, which is then turned back to water – so there is no loss of water.”