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Dakatcha Woodland

Clarke's weaver perched in tree

Image: Steve Garvie

Dakatcha Woodland Important Bird Area (IBA) is near the town of Malindi on the coast of Kenya. The forests, thickets and woodlands of Dakatcha Woodland store water, protect the soil, shelter unique animals and plants including globally endangered birds and provide environmental services and direct benefits to the local people.

Kenya Jatropha Energy Limited (KJEL), owned by the Italian company Nuove Iniziative Industriali Srl, proposed clearing 50,000 hectares to grow the biofuel crop Jatropha curcas ('Jatropha'). Dakatcha Woodland IBA lies entirely within the 50,000 hectares slated for conversion to monoculture plantation. The land is currently held in trust by the County Council of Malindi on behalf of the communities living on the land.

Clearing of the land and planting Jatropha as proposed would devastate this unique environment and its priceless biodiversity. 

In February 2012 we got the fantastic news that the Kenyan environment regulator (NEMA) has refused permission for the proposed KJEL jatropha project and advised the developer to look for an alternative site. The decision was actually made last year, but it has only just been made public.   

However since the decision, KJEL have moved their machinery to a more remote part of Dakatcha woodlands. This is extremely worrying and our Partner Nature Kenya will continue to monitor the situation. 

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Location

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The Dakatcha landscape consists of a series of dry forests, dense thickets and open woodlands interspersed with active and abandoned farmlands, in the rolling hills northwest of Malindi town. To the south, the site is bordered by the wide Galana-Sabaki River. The wooded hills are vital water catchments for the surrounding farmland.

Clarke’s weaver

Dakatcha Woodland is one of Kenya's 60 IBAs and is home to a number of globally threatened birds such as the southern banded snake eagle, Fischer's turaco, Sokoke scops owl, Sokoke pipit and Clarke's weaver. 

Clarke's weaver is found in only two places on Earth: Dakatcha Woodland and Arabuko-Sokoke Forest to the south. It was thought that Clarke's weaver probably nests in Dakatcha Woodland and in Spring 2013 this was confirmed! This site is therefore of critical conservation value to Kenya and the world. Without Dakatcha Woodland, Clarke's weaver would become extinct.

Dakatcha Woodland has also been identified as a Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) and a Global Biodiversity Hotspot critical for globally threatened plants and animals found only in a few East African coastal forests. However, despite its importance for water catchment, for neighbouring communities and for plant and animal diversity, Dakatcha Woodland has no formal protection status.

Challenges

The northwestern part of Malindi presents many challenges to the people who live there. There are few sources of permanent water in this area and the soils are sandy and infertile. This means that meaningful agricultural activities for subsistence and income generation are very difficult. A major source of income for local communities over the past 30-40 years has been selective logging of trees, sold as timber in nearby coastal towns. Since 2005, significant commercial charcoal production started in Dakatcha Woodland, leading to clear felling of large sections of woodland. This, together with slash and burn clearance of forest for agricultural plots, are serious threats to Dakatcha Woodland.

Today, however, converting the land to Jatropha plantations presents an intensely greater threat. Once the forests, thickets and woodlands are cleared, their environmental services – water storage, soil protection, carbon sequestration, climate moderation and protection of biodiversity (source of food, medicine, cultural meaning and tourism opportunities) – will be lost to the community, the nation and the world.

Since 2006, Nature Kenya has been working with local groups to develop livelihood options that bring in money without destroying the forest. These options include, among others, keeping bees to produce honey for a ready market; growing trees as crops in woodlots; and guiding visitors to see the special birds of Dakatcha Woodland and the strange eroded landforms of Hell's Kitchen and Bore-Singwaya depression. A number of local organizations recently came together to form the Dakatcha Woodland Conservation Group, and a Checklist of the Birds of Dakatcha Woodland has already been published. Farmers' groups are also teaching conservation agriculture – using practical farming methods to produce more from existing farmland rather than clearing new land.

The process of management planning started in 2010, initiated by Nature Kenya, working closely with local communities and Government agencies such as Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI), Kenya Forest Service and Kenya Wildlife Service.

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Visit Nature Kenya's advocacy website (link under the Fact file) where you can read more about Dakatcha, or donate to support the campaign.

Read more about our work on biofuels generally by going to campaigns webpage under Useful links.

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We believe that large scale clearing of land for Jatropha plantations in the Dakatcha area will have a devastating effect. It will erode the fragile soil, take scarce water, turn forest land into desert and thereby threaten Clarke's weaver with extinction and destroy the livelihoods of the local people.

The proposed project is likely to result in evictions of the 20,000 people living in the area potentially causing resource use conflicts and constraints to conservation efforts.

We and Nature Kenya recognize the Government of Kenya's concern about climate change and its efforts to promote alternative energy technologies. However, some renewables – biofuels in particular - only deliver limited carbon savings, if any, over their life cycle. There is no evidence that Jatropha will be commercially viable in Dakatcha where soils are arid and rainfall low. In fact Jatropha is a poisonous and potentially invasive plant.

Moreover, demand for biofuels is leading to the conversion of natural habitats such as grasslands and forests on a potentially huge and catastrophic scale with limited savings in greenhouse gas emissions. Dakatcha Woodland IBA is one of many precious wildlife sites that could be lost to biofuel projects. The switch from fossil fuels to renewable energies needs to avoid harm to ecosystems and biodiversity.

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2009

Nature Kenya and local communities learn that an Italian company plans to grow Jatropha curcas in the Dakatcha area. This is welcomed by the County Council of Malindi. Details are difficult to come by.

December 2009

A consultant starts work on an Environmental Impact Assessment for the Jatropha project. Local community members go to court to stop the Jatropha project

March 2010

Kenya Jatropha Energy Limited (KJEL) starts cutting down forest in Dakatcha Woodland. Nature Kenya writes to the Environment Minister calling upon him to stop the destruction of the woodland. The Kenyan National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) announces that the Environmental Impact Assessment EIA is available for stakeholders' comments as KJEL continues with destruction of forest

1 April 2010

KJEL is reportedly issued with a stop order by NEMA Provincial Director of Environment

21 April 2010

The community court case is heard in the Malindi High court. Lawyers from the community and KJEL disagree. Case hearing postponed till further notice. Nature Kenya, the East African Wild Life Society and the RSPB submit objections to the Jatropha project to the Kenyan National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA)

20 May 2010

A public hearing is held in Dakatcha on the Jatropha project. It emerges that the consultative process was flawed and key agencies including the Kenya Forest Service and Kenya Wildlife Service were left out

9 June 2010

Malindi District Environment Committee hold a meeting at which the County Council of Malindi and Provincial Administration propose to allocate 32,000 ha of land held in trust for the community - 10,000 ha will be for conservation, 10,000 ha for human settlement and 10,000 ha for Jatropha. The County Council proposes to hold the title to this land, which by law belongs to the communities

21 June 2010

Nature Kenya and other conservation organizations hold a press conference in Nairobi to object to the KJEL project in Dakatcha

2 July 2010

Journalists, Nature Kenya staff, KWS staff and local people are attacked by KJEL workers at the Jatropha project in Mulunguni, Dakatcha Woodland

6 July 2010

Nature Kenya hold another press conference to condemn the attack

7 July 2010

Nature Kenya writes to the Environment Minister on the ongoing destruction of Dakatcha and the attack on its staff, journalists, KWS staff and local people

7 July 2010

Dr. Marco Lambertini, the Chief Executive of BirdLife International, writes to the Kenyan Environment Minister the Hon. John Michuki expressing serious concerns about the proposed Jatropha project

9 July 2010

Good news – the Kenyan National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) reject the KJEL project. However, the letter advises the developer to redesign and scale the project down to pilot level therefore leaving a door open for the project to re-emerge

August 2010

Nature Kenya write to NEMA welcoming the rejection of the project as initially proposed, but expressing concern about the potential pilot. BirdLife, EAWLS and RSPB also write to NEMA supporting Nature Kenya's position

August 2010

KJEL submit a proposal for a 10,000 ha pilot project to NEMA. Nature Kenya meet the Kenyan Environment Secretary and discuss the Dakatcha project. It emerges that the Italian parent company of KJEL supplies Ikea with biofuels and therefore that Ikea could be a customer for Jatropha oil grown at Dakatcha

27 September 2010

Kenya's Environment Minister the Hon. John Michuki visits the Dakatcha Woodland to see the site and meet stakeholders. The local Member of Parliament (MP) and Fisheries Minister Amason Kingi, the NEMA Director General, Environment Ministry Permanent Secretary and other NEMA officers accompany him. The County Council of Malindi and the provincial administration and Nature Kenya are also present as are many people from the local communities. The stakeholders were invited to make comments, Serah Munguti presented Nature Kenya's position. Positively, the Minister asked the County Council of Malindi to develop a multiple land use plan and zone all forested areas for conservation. He also stated that if KJEL want to go ahead with their project they must provide his office with scientific evidence that Jatropha is commercially viable in Dakatcha and that it is not harmful to people and the environment. The meeting receives extensive coverage in the Kenyan media

October 2010

Nature Kenya awaits NEMA's final decision on the proposed pilot project. We work with Nature Kenya to commission a Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) of the proposed project to examine its potential carbon implications

November 2010

RSPB and other European BirdLife Partners write to Ikea asking about their links to the Dakatcha project

January 2011

RSPB staff visit Dakatcha woodlands. Our hosts for the visit are Dominic Mumbu – Nature Kenya's man on the ground and Patrick Changawa, the energetic Chair of the site support group (SSG) with which Nature Kenya are working to explore sustainable ways of generating money for local people. We visit the new resource centre and library and processing unit for honey generated by the bees in the new hives distributed by Nature Kenya. We drive past the pilot area to look – the small jatropha plantation is guarded by security and has bulldozers waiting to clear more land. We visit Mulunguni village and meet the elders from the village which is setting up a Community Forest Area (CFA) to take control and manage their own natural resources and defend them from developments

February 2011

Kenya's Coast Provincial Commissioner Ernest Munyi orders the NGOs to keep off the project saying 'The investors should be left alone so that the project can kick off as soon as possible.' We work with Action Aid to commission a legal analysis of how the Dakatcha project stacks up against the sustainability criteria set out in the EU Renewable Energy Directive

March 2011

We launch the results of the Life Cycle Analysis which concludes that the project will result in up to six times the carbon emissions of fossil fuels. This gets great coverage in the UK media, including the Telegraph and BBC online.

April 2011

The Chairman of Kenya's environmental regulator (NEMA) Francis Ole Kaparo visits the proposed jatropha project site and orders the developer and to engage in constructive dialogue with the communities.

May 2011

Our legal analysis concludes that the Dakatcha project would result in a number of breaches to the sustainability criteria in the EU Renewable Energy Directive. We launch these results at an event in the European Parliament hosted by Linda MacAvan MEP. Serah Munguti from Nature Kenya gives a moving presentation on the biodiversity consequences of the project. David Barissa from Action Aid Kenya gives a powerful speech about its social consequences. The developer attends and attempts to defend the project. The Brussels launch is followed by an event in the UK Parliament attended by Norman Baker MP

June 2011

Nature Kenya starts work with KFS (Kenya Forest Service) and the community to produce sustainable charcoal in Dakatcha

August 2011

Kenya's environmental authority (NEMA) advises that jatropha is 'not viable' in coastal Kenya raising hope that KJEL will not get their licence to grow jatropha at Dakatcha. Commenting on the licence granted for a 10,000ha 'pilot' project to grow jatropha in nearby Tana River Delta NEMA's Chairman, Mr Francis Ole Kaparo, said "There is nothing to prove jatropha is viable. In fact, all evidence shows it has failed". Nature Kenya congratulated NEMA on this position. "NEMA is on the right path to sustainable development, by using science to avoid irreversible environmental, social and economic costs. We hope the Ministry will follow this advice and cancel Bedford Biofuel’s licence for a 'pilot' of 10,000 ha of jatropha at Tana, and that this wise decision has been made clear to Kenya Jatropha Energy Limited at Dakatcha" said NatureKenya CEO Paul Matiku.

February 2012

We get the fantastic news that NEMA has refused permission for the proposed KJEL jatropha project. NEMA gave the following reasons for the decision: 1. insufficient data on the viability of Jatropha cultivation in Kenya, 2. Lack of evidence of concurrence from local community for the project, and 3. Lack of a land use plan to guide development in the area; and advised the developer to look for an alternative site. The decision was actually made last year, but it has only just been made public.

March 2012

Worryingly KJEL have moved their machinery to a more remote part of Dakatcha woodlands. Legally they should not carry out any activities without first undertaking a new EIA and getting permission.

July 2012

Exciting news – bird guides see a flock of about 100 Clarke's Weavers in the Chamari-Chalalu area of Dakatcha Woodland. There were both male and female weavers in breeding plumage, and several birds were feeding flying young.

September 2012

SSGs working with KFS and the police and have reduced charcoal burning by 80%. Nature Kenya provided training to 47 community scouts. KFS are prosecuting offenders.

October 2012

Community Conservation Areas - areas that will be set aside for conservation within the woodlands are mapped and agreed on.

March 2013

An ex-minister who was among those promoting the rejected Jatropha curcus project becomes the new governor for Kilifi County. Nature Kenya have written to him and plan to lobby him on conservation of Dakatcha.

April 2013

Breeding of Clarke's Weavers in Dakatcha woodland confirmed.

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