Something Strange is Happening to Kenya's Lake Baringo

Is it an ecological disaster, and can it be reversed?

By Wakini Njogu and Patrick Gatua
Photography by Ken Rotich
Illustrations by Ernest Kilonzo
14th September, 2020

Lake Baringo’s water levels have been rising over the past couple of months following heavy rainfall. Many residents have been left homeless, with businesses that once flourished now drowned slowly by the lake’s waters. Schools and hospitals, the very lifeline of this town, no longer in operation.

This has been caused by catchment degradation, especially around Mau forest, which is the origin of rivers Molo and Perkerra which feed Lake Baringo. But the Mau, which is the largest indigenous forest in the country has been marred with controversial politics over human settlement and activity that has led to massive degradation of the forest. As climate change heightens, geologists not only anticipate prolonged droughts, but also high levels of rainfall.

South of Lake Baringo is Lake Bogoria, whose banks are also breaking. A growing concern among experts such as Dr William Ojwang’, a Freshwater Expert at WWF-Kenya, is that the two lakes will merge. In 1984, the distance between the lakes was 21.92km. By June 2020, the gap had reduced to 12.02km.

The cause for concern is that these water bodies are different; Baringo is a fresh-water lake while Bogoria is saline. Most residents depend on fishing for their livelihood, a part of their lives that has largely been affected.

“Crocodiles are swimming into our homes. You have to be indoors by 7 pm, otherwise, the hippos roaming around are likely to attack you,’’ says Francis Lenkai, a resident of Baringo area.

The Water Resource Authority has advised the residents to move away from the lake shores as the water levels continue to rise.

?What is Flooding

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