Bedford Biofuels Continue to Threaten Tana Delta

On 7 September we told you about the threats to Kenya’s Tana River Delta Important Bird Area from plans by the Canadian company Bedford Biofuels to establish a jatropha (biofuel) plantation. Since our post Bedford has been in touch to express their disagreement with our criticism of their project (see the comment posted). However, our concerns continue. Nature Canada has written to the Canadian government to bring our concerns to their attention and find out whether the government is supporting this project. We will let you know their response. 

In the meantime, here is a summary of the latest information provided by our BirdLife partners at Nature Kenya:

At the start of this week Bedford Biofuels and Nature Kenya met in Nairobi. Bedford was accompanied by their lawyer and more than 20 people from the Delta supporting the Bedford proposal. However unfortunately despite a long (around 5 hour) and at times rather tense meeting Bedford was not prepared to recognize the concerns of Nature Kenya and others from the Delta or willing to respect the land use planning process under way. 

In summary, Nature Kenya and others are worried that jatropha is untested, that Kenya has yet to adopt a biofuels policy and that 10,000 ha is too big to be a pilot. Also that the proposed project is within the very sensitive Delta floodplain and that there needs to be a land use plan for the Delta in place to provide a strategic framework before individual large-scale developments proceed. For all these reasons Nature Kenya is maintaining their challenge to the Bedford consent and hoping that the Kenyan Government will act on NEMA (the National Environment Management Authority) advice to cancel the Bedford consent. 

It is very encouraging to see the land-use planning process for the Delta now firmly underway. Between 14-17 September around 65 participants took part in a high-level meeting in Malindi to discuss the need for a strategic plan for the Delta. The Kenyan Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) hosted the meeting with NEMA and Nature Kenya jointly providing the Secretariat. It was attended by representatives from key Kenyan government ministries and agencies including NEMA, the Ministries of Finance, Lands, Agriculture, Environment and Mineral Resources, Water and Irrigation, Fisheries, Kenya Forest Services, Kenya Wildlife Service, TARDA (Tana and Athi River Development Authority), together with NGOs, media and international experts in the fields of land use and delta planning and environmental assessment. The meeting included a workshop plus a field visit into the Delta to provide the opportunity for participants to see the Delta and speak to the local people to understand the issues first hand.
The meeting closed by adopting a Communiqué of the Inter-Ministerial Consultative Meeting on the sustainable development of Deltas in Kenya. This confirmed the launch of the Tana Delta planning initiative, including agreement on a road map leading to the long-term sustainable development of the remarkable Tana River Delta in ways that will provide for economic prosperity, stable social conditions and lasting environmental quality.
Specifically the meeting agreed:
    • To the establishment of a local Tana Delta planning process which will be steered by a local committee (the Planning Implementation Committee) and will involve a combination of strategic planning and strategic environmental assessment (SEA) 


  • The output will be a long-term strategic land use plan representing a ‘truly sustainable’ future to the Delta.



  • That this process will combine scientific, economic, social and environmental evaluation tools alongside extensive public participation and will be a collaborative exercise involving all relevant government ministries and agencies, counties, districts and communities, Civil Society and NGOs, International Partners and investors



  • The process will take place over the next 18 months, with the support of DFID (UKAid).


Things are now moving quickly with the Inter-Ministerial meeting scheduled to meet again on Tuesday 27 September to discuss the terms of reference for the SEA. This is exciting news.