23 Jun 2017

Nature Kenya’s Serah Munguti recognised for Tusk Conservation Award

Serah speaks about her work at Tana River Delta © NatureKenya
Serah speaks about her work at Tana River Delta © NatureKenya
By Jude Fuhnwi

After several years on the frontline working with communities and campaigning for the conservation of Kenya’s biodiverse Tana River Delta, Serah Munguti, Advocacy Manager of BirdLife International’s Partner in Kenya was shortlisted as finalist for the fifth annual Tusk Award.

Serah who works for Nature Kenya has reached out to local communities and engaged with policy makers to preserve the delta which has been under constant threat from developers in all sectors.

“Being nominated and becoming a finalist for this award is not only for me, it is also for the many people who have walked the arduous but incredibly rewarding journey with me over the last eight years. My colleagues at Nature Kenya, especially Dr. Paul Matiku, Francis Kagema, George Odera, Hassan Golo and colleagues at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) in the UK,” said Serah.

“Most importantly it is for the people of the Tana Delta who believed our message and rose above all expectations for the sake of their lives and those of future generations. It is for the biodiversity of the Tana Delta, unable to defend itself but has a voice in me, Nature Kenya, and the community,” she added.

Serah has managed Nature Kenya’s Tana delta projects including the Tana River Delta Land Use Plan (LUP) and Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) that won a prestigious international award for planning excellence in London on 5th May 2016.

Serah on a boat with her Nature Kenya colleagues, RSPB staff and Peter Nelson during field work at Tana Delta  © NatureKenya

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The Tana Delta in the coastal province of Kenya is one of three most important deltas in the country, and covers an area of about 130,000 hectares. This delta is a breeding and feeding site for thousands of birds. It is home to the endangered Malindi Pipit (Anthus melindae) and the Basra Reed-warbler (Acrocephalus griseldis) and a vital habitat for thousands of snails that lure more than 1500 birds every day.

Several species of mammals such as elephants, lions, hippos and even wild dogs are also found in the area. The community benefits from the delta through fishing, fresh water, agricultural farming, grazing and tourism. 

The Tana River primate national reserve was set up to protect the endemic and critically endangered Tana River Red Colobus and Tana Crested Mangabey.

Serah says she has worked extremely hard in the past eight years to preserve this rich biodiversity with support from experts like Peter Nelson who advised on the LUP and SEA, and government officials both at national and country levels, citing Peter Odhengo as one who believed in her Nature Kenya team and worked beyond the call of duty to produce the land use plan and Strategic Environmental Assessment.

“I felt overwhelmed, grateful and humbled,” said Serah, who described her nomination for the Tusk Conservation Award as “a win in itself”.

“The nomination is an encouragement that there is no challenge that I cannot overcome, especially working with such a diverse team. It is unlikely that in my career there will be any other work like the Tana Delta - the complexities that existed at community level, government and global drivers. But the lessons learned are worth it and are already being applied in other parts of Kenya and the world,” she explained.

Serah will be competing in the Tusk Conservation category with Brighton Kumchedwa, who has dedicated his life to conservation in Malawi and Nachamada Geoffrey, who leads a team in Nigeria’s Yankari Game Reserve.

The winners of the awards will be announced at a ceremony in Cape Town in October.

The prestigious Tusk Awards recognise unsung heroes on the frontline of conservation in Africa, fighting for wildlife.