EAC Natural Resources Management Projects

Improving Collaborative Conservation and Management of Transboundary Natural Resources in East African Community

USAID/Kenya and East Africa has partnered with the EAC Secretariat  in an effort to strengthen the Community's collaborative conservation and management of transboundary natural resources.

Over its 3-year duration, startting July 2019, the project will focus on the following 3 objectives:

  • To strengthen EAC’s evidence-based decision-making, regulation, technical coordination of strategic approaches and capacity building in conservation and management of transboundary natural resources;
  • To increase regional public awareness on the value of natural resources ; and
  • To reduce transboundary wildlife poaching and trafficking.

 In strengthening harmonization of regional policies, strategies, plans and legal frameworks that support effective and efficient conservation and management of transboundary ecosystems in East African Community, the project will support:

  • Development of a Regional Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (RBSAP);
  • Review the EAC Protocol on Environment and Natural Resources Management, 2006;
  • Review the EAC Transboundary Ecosystems Management Bill, 2012;
  • Harmonize Regional Policy, Strategy and Legislation on Wildlife Conservation & Management; and
  • Support ratification of the East African Community Forests Management and Protection Bill, 2015

Further the poject will work on strengthening the capacity of regional institutions to sustainably manage critical transboundary ecosystems as well as increase awareness of the economic and intrinsic value of living wildlife and reduce demand for wildlife products.

During its implementation, the project will also stablish and operationalize an effective regional coordination mechanism to strengthen inter-agency collaboration on wildlife conservation at regional and international level.

Water Resources

Eastern Africa is home to some of the greatest water sources in the world. The three most notable water bodies and systems and of relevance to the East Africa region include:

  • Lake Tanganyika - the greatest single reservoir of fresh water on the continent and second deepest in the world (UNEP, 2006),
  • Lake Victoria - Africa’s largest lake and the world’s second-largest freshwater lake, and
  • the Nile River Basin - source of the Nile, the longest river in the world.

The distribution of water varies significantly within the region. The region has four major aridity zones: moist sub-humid mainly in Uganda, Rwanda and parts of Burundi, dry sub-humid (parts of Uganda, western Tanzania), semi-arid (parts of Tanzania) and arid, most of Kenya. The western component of East Africa, including Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda along with the central part of the continent are considered to have a rain surplus, while large parts of Kenya are considered to have a very large water deficit (UNEP, 2010).


Water Towers

Both of the great lakes, Lakes Victoria and Tanganyika, and ultimately, the White Nile depend on the regional catchments referred to as Water Towers of the region. The Water Towers of eastern Africa are a collection of mountain ecosystems and associated river basins. These areas have a major influence on regional hydrology and global climatic cycles.

The majority of the main water towers in the region are under very serious threat and several are severely degraded; the threats are anthropogenic in nature. Many of the forests have been cleared extensively mainly for agricultural purposes and human settlements and face additional pressure from surrounding human settlements.


Important regional issues

It is clear that the region has significant volumes of water and that these volumes could be enhanced by the preservation and restoration of the region’s water towers. However to achieve water security, there is need to address important policy issues regionally including:

  • Though water resources are available, they are not evenly distributed nationally and regionally.
  • Access to water is critical; water storage and transportation is currently not sufficiently developed to deal with the scale of regional water availability, shortcomings are further emphasised during natural disasters such as drought.
  • Water quality is declining significantly mainly as a result of human activity in both the catchments and river basins.
  • Sedimentation and siltation are exacerbated by increasing deforestation; pollution occurs as a result of untreated industrial, domestic wastewater and solid waste as well as boat discharges; high levels of eutrophication and anoxia occur as a result of agricultural run-off and domestic wastewater and solid waste discharge.
  • Lake Victoria is relatively shallow with high rates of evaporation and almost completely reliant on rainfall (Kizza et al., 2009; Awange et al. 2008), thus pollution can be concentrated within the lake.
  • Lake Tanganyika is already anoxic beyond a depth of 35m (UNEP 2004) and most importantly as a closed basin, water and pollution are long lived; it takes approximately 7,000 years for water to be flushed from the lake.

The main challenges to achieving water security are therefore:

  • The destruction of the ecosystems underpinning the region’s water towers;
  • The lack of physical infrastructure to store and transport water from areas of high availability to those of low availability;
  • High population density that continues to increase above the continent’s average (UNEP, 2010);
  • Poor waste management;
  • High rates of evaporation particularly of Lake Victoria;
  • Lack of systematic knowledge, data and monitoring of groundwater aquifers.

Trans-boundary Ecosystems

The five Partner States of the EAC namely, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and Tanzania share many terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. These ecosystems are primary assets and a store of wealth - wildlife, flora and fauna, which if well managed, could contribute to poverty alleviation.

These shared ecosystems face major threats, which include depletion of natural resources due to the rising population pressure, expansion in human activities; over-exploitation, unsustainable agricultural practices, over-fishing, pollution including both point and non-point sources, rampant conversion and destruction of wetlands in ecosystems such as Lake Victoria. These threats, if not checked on time, may have significant negative ecological, environmental, and social impacts.

Efforts to review the policy, legal and institutional frameworks are being made for the management of the natural resource base and the environment. However, those that affect the management of shared ecosystems are still wanting. The EAC Secretariat is working to harmonise policy frameworks for the management of trans-boundary natural resources.

Biodiversity & Forestry



East Africa is well endowed with a variety of ecosystems that provide varied services, as well as habitats for a wide range of species. Burundi has 13 protected areas covering 100,000 ha of land. About 172,000 ha (or 6.7%) of Burundi is forested. These ecosystems harbour 2,500 higher plant species, 145 bird species, 107 mammal species, 79 reptile species, 18 amphibian species and 5 fish species.

The Kenyan coastline is characterised by a rich diversity of flora and fauna, including fish, coral reefs and mangrove forests. The rangelands are composed of a number of habitat structures ranging from open grasslands to closed woody and / or bushy vegetation with varying amounts and composition of grass cover and species.

Rwanda’s location at the heart of the Albertine Rift eco-region in the western arm of Africa’s Rift Valley makes it one of Africa’s most biologically diverse regions. It is home to some 40% of the continent’s mammal species (402 species), a huge diversity of birds (1,061 species), reptiles and amphibians (293 species), and higher plants (5,793 species).

Tanzania has a diverse spectrum of fauna and flora, including a wide variety of endemic species and sub-species. The biological diversity and degree of endemism consist of primates (20 species and 4 endemic), antelopes (34 species and 2 endemic), fish (with many endemic in Lake Victoria, Tanganyika and Nyasa and other small lakes and rivers), reptiles (290 species and 75 endemic), amphibians (40 endemic), invertebrates and plants (around 11,000 species including many endemic).

Uganda has a rich array of natural resources which include water and wetlands, biodiversity, fisheries, forestry, land resources, wildlife, and minerals among others. The country has more than 5,000 plant species along with 345 mammals, 1,015 birds, 165 reptiles and 43 amphibians.




The East African region has a wide variety of forests that support a wealth of biological diversity. The major forest types include tropical and sub-tropical forests, forests plantations, Miombo woodlands, Savannah, Acacia woodlands and mangroves. The forests are vital to people’s livelihoods and regional socio economic development through provision of goods and services. Apart from providing fuel wood for energy, timber and poles for construction, medicine and food, they also protect soil from erosion, harbour valuable biodiversity and are water catchment areas and offer recreational opportunities.


Forest management challenges:

Despite the importance, forests are facing numerous challenges that threaten and undermine their potential contribution in conservation, poverty alleviation and economic development. While climate change threatens to change the types and condition of forests, unsustainable exploitation through logging, unsustainable tree cutting, forests conversion and infrastructure development degrade and fragment the forests in the region. At present, exploitation far exceeds conservation, which has led to drastic loss of forest cover.

Challenges such as inadequate collaboration in forest management among Partner States, inadequate capacity in planning and program implementation at national levels and conflicting forest policies can be resolved by developing a robust and comprehensive regional forest policy to support regional forests conservation and complement national forest initiatives.

The EAC Climate Change Policy also identifies the Forest Management Sector as one of the critical sectors for climate change adaptation and mitigation since forests are considered carbon sinks.


Regional Forest Policy:

The EAC Partner States have recognised the importance of forests and the need for a regional forest policy to among other things maximise the contribution of the forest sector in improving people’s livelihoods and nature conservation.

This is supported by Chapter 19, Article 111 of the EAC Treaty where Partner States agree to take concerted measures to foster co-operation in the joint and efficient management and the sustainable utilisation of natural resources within the Community for the mutual benefit of the Partner States.

Article 114, section 2(a)(i) with regard to the conservation and management of forests calls for Partner States to take necessary measures through:

  1. the adoption of common policies for, and the exchange of information on the development, conservation and management of natural forests, commercial plantations and natural reserves; the joint promotion of common forestry practices within the Community;
  2. the joint utilisation of forestry training and research facilities;
  3. the adoption of common regulations for the conservation and management of all catchment forests within the Community;
  4. the establishment of uniform regulations for the utilisation of forestry resources in order to reduce the depletion of natural forests and avoid desertification within the Community; and
  5. the establishment of Api-Agro Forestry Systems.

The specific objectives of the forest policy will among other things involve the following:

  1. Protecting and enhancing the quality of EAC regional forest resources for the benefits of its citizens and future generations including productive capacity, health and vitality;
  2. Ensuring that extraction of forest products in the region is sustainable and done in accordance with laws and regulations governing forest management;
  3. Maintaining or enhancing the ecosystem services provided by forests; and
  4. Supporting EAC’s partner states in managing forest resources to produce the range and mix of goods and services demanded at local, national, regional and global levels.

Protocol on Environment and Natural Resource Management

The Protocol on Environment and Natural Resources Management was signed by the Republic of Kenya, Republic of Uganda and United Republic of Tanzania on 3rd April 2006. The Protocol has since been ratified by the Republic of Uganda and the Republic of Kenya in 2010 and 2011 respectively. The Republic of Rwanda and the Republic of Burundi were not yet EAC Partner States at the time the Protocol was negotiated and signed.

The United Republic of Tanzania has not ratified the Protocol due to a number of issues. The process to address these issues in order to finalise the ratification process and make the Protocol operational is ongoing under the guidance of the Council of Ministers. The Protocol is currently not in force and hence not a legally binding document pending ratification by all Partner States.

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