Friends of Lake Turkana

Switch to desktop Register Login

Our Director, Ikal Angelei, has been announced as the 2012 Goldman Environmental Prize Reciepient for Africa in recognition of her tireless effort to save Lake Turkana from the dangers of the massive Gibe 3 Dam being constructed in Ethiopia’s Omo River.

In 2008, Ikal Angelei, who also works with renowned anthropologist and conservationist, Dr. Richard Leakey, learned from the distinguished Kenyan of the construction of what will become Africa’s largest dam along the Omo River in Ethiopia. Ikal immediately recognized that the dam would be the death of Lake Turkana and the end of the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of impoverished and marginalized people in the Lower Omo Basin and Lake Turkana regions.

Ikal started her campaign to stop the construction of the dam which had started in 2006. Shortly, she and likeminded individuals formed the Friends of Lake Turkana. FoLT thus became the vehicle that would spearhead the campaign to stop Gibe 3 on its tracks. In the few years that Ikal and FoLT have campaigned against the dam, we have managed to convince several financing organizations, including the World Bank, the European Investment Bank and the African Development Bank not to fund the construction of Gibe 3 – which is 40% complete – and convinced the UNESCO World Heritage Committee to issue a communiqué calling for a stop in the construction of Gibe 3. The Kenyan Parliament also passed a resolution requiring the government to demand an independent environmental Impact Assessment of the dam.

Ikal continues to trudge on as she is now pushing for the Kenyan government – which is in agreement with Ethiopia to purchase 60% of the electricity generated by the dam – to get out of the power purchase agreement thus make it unjustifiable for China to continue funding the dam owing to the diminished demand. As Ikal always says, “Aluta continua.”

The Goldman Environmental Prize was created in 1989 by civic leaders and philanthropist Richard N. Goldman and his wife Rhoda H. Goldman to support individuals struggling to win environmental victories against the odds. It is meant to inspire ordinary people to take extraordinary actions to protect the world. The phenomenal Prof. Wangari Maathai – RIP – won this Prize in 1991.

Read more about Ikal’s achievement in this blog post by Peter Bosshard of International Rivers, key supporters and partners of FoLT.

Learn more about the Goldman Environmental Prize in their website.

By Ellie Peters (BA, ’13), 2012 Nicholas School Undergraduate Communications Intern

Ikal in TurkanaDURHAM, NC – Environmental activist Ikal Angelei spoke to a group of graduate and undergraduate students at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment on Friday, Sept. 14, about her efforts to stop the construction of a mega dam that would affect more than 500,000 people living in Kenya and Ethiopia.

Angelei’s work to halt construction of the controversial dam won her a prestigious Goldman Prize in Environmental Activism earlier this year.

Her talk at the Nicholas School was part of the 2012 Environmental Institutions Seminar Series, sponsored by the University PhD Program in Environmental Policy (UPEP) and the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.

Introduced as a “force of one,” Angelei has spearheaded the movement to stop the construction of the Gibe III hydroelectric dam on the Omo River , which provides 90 percent of the water in Lake Turkana. The world’s largest desert lake, Turkana straddles the border of Ethiopia and Kenya and is a vital resource for the fishermen and herders who eke out an existence on its shores... 



Dams and irrigated plantations being built in Ethiopia will bring major changes to the flow of the Lower Omo River, which in turn will harm ecosystem functions and local livelihoods all the way to the river's terminus at Lake Turkana in Kenya. More dams are planned for the basin that would compound the damages. 

Here we outline some of the basic changes that can be expected as a result of these developments, and include resources on where to get more information. 

The video below illustrates the hydrological risks the dam and plantations bring to the Lower Omo and Lake Turkana:


 Fast Facts

Lower Omo River. Alison M. Jones (No Water No Life)
  • The Gibe III reservoir is expected to start filling at the beginning of the next Kiremt rainy season (approximately May 2014); filling the reservoir will take up to three years. During this time, the river’s yearly flow will drop as much as 70%.   
  • The Gibe III will provide stable flows year-round that will enable the growth of large commercial agricultural plantations in the Lower Omo. The Kuraz sugar plantation and additional areas identified for cultivation could eventually take almost half of the Omo River inflow to Lake Turkana. 
  • These projects will cause a decrease in river flow and the size, length, and number of floods, which will be disastrous for downstream users. This is the first year in which runoff from the Kiremt season, which is vital for flood-recession agriculture, restoration of grazing areas, and fisheries production, will be almost completely blocked. 
    Fishermen and their dried catch, Lake Turkana
    Fishermen and their dried catch, Lake Turkana
    • Changes to the flooding regime will disrupt fish spawning cues and decrease productive habitat for fish in Lake Turkana and the river. Lake fish catches may decrease.
  • Because the Omo River contributes almost all of Lake Turkana’s inflows each year, these developments could cause a big drop in lake water levels. Lake Turkana is projected to drop by about two meters during the initial filling of the dam. If current plans to create new plantations move forward, the lake could drop from 16 to 22 meters. The average depth of the lake is just 31 meters.    
  • በኢትዮጵያ በታችኛው የኦሞ ሸለቆ እየተገነቡ ያሉት ተያያዥ የልማት ፕሮጀክቶች በወንዙ የውኃ ፍሰት እና ከወንዙ ጋር ህይወቱን አቆራኝቶ በሚኖረው የአካባቢው ህብረተሰብ ዘንድ ታላቅ አደጋን ጋርጦ ይገኛል፡፡ እንደዚሁም በጊቤ ሶስት የኤሌክትሪክ ግድብ ግንባታ እና ከዚሁ ጋር በተያያዘ መልኩ እየተከናወነ ባለው ከፍተኛ የመስኖ ልማት ልማት ስራ ምክንያት በቱርካና ሀይቅ ላይ ከፍተኛ የሆነ የውኃ መጠን የመቀነስ አዝማሚያ በመከሰቱ በአካባቢው ብዝኃ ሕይወት እና የህዝቦች ኑሮ ላይ ከፍተኛ አደጋ ተጋርጧል፡፡
  • Climate change could worsen the water situation in the Omo. More extreme droughts and unpredictable precipitation patterns, combined with higher temperatures (which increase evaporation), could cause further stress to a region that already experiences extreme precipitation variability. There is evidence that there will be a drying trend and warmer temperatures.

  • The Gibe III and associated irrigation projects will limit people’s mobility and ability to practice diverse livelihoods, which are important ways people in the region have adapted to climate variability in the past. 
  • The primary means of livelihood for about 500,000 people will be dismantled by the Gibe III and large-scale commercial agriculture. Conflicts over scarce resources are expected to increase.

Interview by Mark Caldwell - DW

Richard Leakey speaks to DWAs Kenya hails its first oil discovery, in a DW interview renowned Kenyan paleontologist Richard Leakey urges people to put pressure on the government to avoid the mistakes made in other oil-rich African nations.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki has announced the discovery of crude oil in the north of Kenya where British company Tullow Oil has been doing exploratory drilling for the past year. The commercial viability of the desposit is still uncertain.

Richard Leakey, outspoken conservationist, fossil expert and former Kenyan politician about the Deutsche Welle on prospects and concerns surrounding the oil find. Read the entire interview on DW...

The Gibe hydroelectric project is one of a series of damming projects that have been undertaken by the Ethiopian government. The project is a public-private partnership planned as a 25 year national energy master plan of Ethiopia. The planned increase in power generation, however far exceeds domestic needs with the surplus which is estimated at 50 percent being exported to the neighboring countries including Kenya which the Ethiopian Electric Power Company (EEPCo) predicts to export 500MW to.

Download Gibe III Fact sheet and other documents here to obtain more background information pertaining to the Gibe III project.

The Gibe III threatens the biodiversity, livelihoods, and development of Northern Kenya, yet these potential risks have not been taken into account in the project planning by the Government of Ethiopia. The project has been opposed by local and international environmental and human rights groups and advocates. However, it was ultimately approved based on an incomplete Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) that did not adequately take into account the perspectives of indigenous communities around Lake Turkana.

To find out more about the threats the Lake faces with its construction, click here

Despite the potential impacts of the dam on the lake’s ecosystem and livelihoods, Ethiopia has continued to pursue the project without an adequate environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) or proper consultation with the Lake Turkana Basin communities. FoLT is therefore working to bring attention to the impacts which Gibe III Dam will have on the Lake Turkana region and peoples and to find lasting solutions to this social injustice.

Visit our news or blog pages to read articles to learn more about our activities to oppose the Gibe III project.


16 Feb

Video Gallery

Published in Multimedia

BBC Documentary on Gibe 3 (1 of 2) and (2 of 2)

Interview With Lilian Ikal Angelei

Voices from Lake Turkana & Dams and Development

Home to Turkana: The beginning

Lake Turkana is an alkaline saline lake that is located in an arid and hot environment in the Northern parts of the Eastern Rift Valley, with its northernmost tip stretching into Ethiopia. The Omo River is a transboundary river that contributes at least 80 percent of the waters of Lake Turkana with most of its Delta being in Kenya. The Lake is a closed drainage basin with a 7500 square kilometer body in north western Kenya. It is an alkaline saline lake that lies between 20 27’N, 40 40’N; 350 44’E, 350 50’E.

Lake Turkana is the world’s largest permanent desert lake. Its lunar-like landscape features white dunes, and sparsely populated vegetation. Volcanic in origin, Lake Turkana is the most northerly of the Kenyan Rift Valley lakes, crossing over the border of Ethiopia. The climate is dry and arid, and sudden, violent storms are frequent. Central Island within Lake Turkana is an active volcano with visible vapors. Its extreme terrain and remote location makes it still one of the most wild and untouched regions.

Lake Turkana is home to large populations of Nile crocodiles, hippos, and over 40 different species of fish and venomous snakes. The Turkana region has been a treasure trove of archaeological findings including the skull of the species Homo Rudolfensis. The lake is now internationally recognized, and its national parks declared World Heritage Sites for its use as a stopping point for migratory birds, as a breeding ground for the Nile crocodile, hippopotamus, and snakes, as well as unique floral and fauna species-many of which are not yet well documented.

The Turkana region has been a treasure trove of archaeological findings including the skull of the species Homo Rudolfensis. Lake Turkana is now internationally recognized, and its national parks declared World Heritage Sites for its use as a stopping point for migratory birds, as a breeding ground for the Nile crocodile, hippopotamus, and snakes, as well as unique floral and fauna species-many of which are not yet well documented.

There are a variety of indigenous communities around the Lake Basin including the: Rendille, Samburu, Turkana, Elmolo, Dassanach, Ariaal, and Gabbra. Learn more about the Lake Basin Communities.

manyattaA new study conducted by Dr Sean Avery and released by the African Study Centre reveals a much grimmer picture of the impact of the building of Gibe III Dam on the Omo River and associated large scale irrigation-dependent plantations in Ethiopia would have on the Lake Turkana and Lower Omo Basins. The report shows how Gibe's regulation of the flow of the Omo will alter the annual flood regime upon which the agro-pastoralists of the lower Omo depend for their livelihoods and how it will, coupled with the abstraction of Omo water for large-scale irrigation will alter the hydrological inflow patterns to Lake Turkana, directly impacting the ecology of the world's largest lake.

This is the second comprehensive study of the impact of Gibe on the hydrology of Lake Turkana and Lover Omo that the Nairobi-based consultant hydrologist and civil engineer, Dr Sean Avery, has conducted. Dr Avery previously carried out the only comprehensive assessment of the impact of the dam on Lake Turkana and Lower Omo - commissioned by the African Development Bank (AfDB) - but that was before the full scale of planned irrigation-dependent large scale plantation development was known. 

A few months after the AFDB report was submitted, the full extent of planned irrigation development in the lower Omo became clearer, with the announcement that the state-run Ethiopian Sugar Corporation would soon begin developing 150,000 hectares of irrigated sugar plantations. It became necessary to conduct a new study to consolidate the previous findings with the new information.

Dr Avery's new report is now available to download from the website of the University of Oxford's African Studies Centre. We have placed the links to the two volume report and an executive summary here. You can also read Dr Avery's first report in the Documents Downloads section of our website.

Download Documents


The River Omo and Lake Turkana Hydrology: Executive Summary and Introduction

The River Omo and Lake Turkana Hydrology: Volume I

The River Omo and Lake Turkana Hydrology: Volume II

In an unfortunate twist, the World Heritage Committee has rejected recommendations by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the World Heritage Centre to inscribe the Lake Turkana National Parks into the list of World Heritage in Danger.

During their 36th meeting at St. Petersberg in Russia, the World Heritage Committee turned down the recommendation to inscribe the Lake and 3 other Heritage Sites into this list despite the looming doom that is to come from the building of Gibe 3 Dam in Ethiopia together with other developments in Kenya and Ethiopia. The IUCN expressed great disappointment following this decision.

"We are disappointed that the committee has not inscribed any of these threatened sites on the List of World Heritage in Danger this year," said Tim Badman, director of IUCN's World Heritage Programme, referring to Kenya’s Lake Turkana, Cameroon’s Dja Biosphere Reserve, Russia’s Virgin Komi Forests and the Pitons Management Area in the Caribbean island nation of Saint Lucia.

Ikal Angelei, activist and founder of the Friends of Lake Turkana, who have been fighting to save the lake and its people, also expressed great dissatisfaction saying, “It is a sad day for Lake Turkana and our people,” and adding that the inscription of the lake’s parks would have given it the prominence it desperately needs to survive the unrelenting onslaught of bad developments. "It must take a lot for UNESCO to consider a place to be in danger if Turkana did not make the list!" said Ms. Angelei. Ms. Angelei won the 2012 Goldman Environmental Prize for Africa earlier this year in recognition of her efforts to save Lake Turkana.

The IUCN decision to propose the lake into the World Heritage in Danger list was based on findings of the joint mission visit to Lake Turkana by the IUCN and the World Heritage Centre in March 2012 that identified the dangers posed by Gibe 3 Dam construction and associated irrigation fed plantations and dams in the Lower Omo basin, oil exploration, pressure from poaching and livestock grazing and impacts of other large developments in northern Kenya.

The Friends of Lake Turkana have been campaigning against Gibe 3 Dam and in the few years they’ve been doing so, they have managed to stop the African Development Bank from funding the Gibe III Dam in spite of strong Ethiopian pressure. The World Bank and the European Investment Bank also walked away recognizing that the project would violate their social and environmental safeguard policies. Other big would be financiers have also been convinced to withdraw their funding for the now half complete dam delaying the $1.7 billion project by several years.

The joint team concluded that these dangers are severe enough to place the Lake Turkana heritage site in the danger list. "These four sites face significant threats to their values, from threats including major infrastructure projects, the extractive industry and property speculation," said Badman. The World Heritage Committee ignored these arguments and failed to inscribe the precious property.

The 36th meeting of the committee started in June 24 and ends on July 6 this year. This is the second year in a row that the committee has rejected the inscription of the Russian property, the Virgin Komi Forests, into the list. It is still unclear why the committee rejected the proposed decisions to accord these important resources that additional protection.

22 Jun

About Us

Published in About FoLT

Friends of Lake Turkana (FoLT), is a grassroots organization founded in 2009 whose mission is to foster social, economic and environmental justice in the Lake Turkana Basin.

This is through:


  • Protect and conserve Lake Turkana, the Lake Turkana Basin and its environment.
  • Advocate for the rights of the Turkana Basin communities, 
  • Increase the participation of communities in environmental protection policy formulation, sustainable management and wise use of natural resources, & lobby for increased participation of communities in the development andgovernance of their resources



FoLT was co-founded by Ikal Angelei and some concerned Kenyans who became privy to information that Gibe III dam in Ethiopia was being built on the Omo River which is a shared river between Kenya and Ethiopia was a project of unacceptable trade-offs between the 2 countries, and would jeopardize indigenous economies, destroy ecosystem and exacerbate conflicts. It was founded in November 2008 and received fiscal and office support from Turkana Basin Institute . FoLT worked and continues to work closely with the people of Lake Turkana and advocates on their behalf. FoLT was officially registered under in the Ministry of Lands through the Trust Act in October 2009

FoLT’s initial undertaking was the campaign to conserve and protect Lake Turkana and its ecosystem as well as protecting the rights of the Lake Turkana communities by campaigning for the halting of Gilgel Gibe III dam until certain conditions had been met. The conditions included;

  • The conducting of a Comprehensive and independent Environmental Social Impact Assessment (Which was questionable because the project commenced in 2006 and the published EIA was done in 2008)
  • Demonstrating that there is free, prior and informed consent of the affected tribes to the project;
  • All impacts to Lake Turkana and the Lower Omo have been fully documented and analyzed by independent experts, and public hearings held in Kenya on the expected impacts;
  • A participatory process has been undertaken with downstream communities, including those in Kenya.


It was while undertaking this campaign that we identified the lack of community awareness of their rights, the policies and obligations of state and non state actors. During community meetings that we created partnerships with grassroots community based organizations, beach management units (whose mandate is within the lake beaches), local leaders and various community associations and realized the need for the FoLT to take up other roles that would expand its operations within environment and resource rights and governance of the Turkana Basin.

Read More about:

Copyright © 2013 Friends of Lake Turkana | All rights reserved.

Top Desktop version