Lake Natron – Tanzania

Lake Natron – Tanzania

– Enhancing the conservation and wise use of Lake Natron Ramsar site in Tanzania as a model for safeguarding threatened key biodiversity areas in Africa while improving community livelihoods.

Year: 2010 – 2012

  • The Wildlife Conservation Society of Tanzania (WCST)
  • Nature Kenya and the
  • Wetlands Unit of the Wildlife Division in the Government of Tanzania
  • BirdLife International

Project background
BirdLife International’s work involves the protection of sites of global significance for biodiversity conservation termed as Important Bird Areas (IBAs). In Africa, over 1,200 sites are vital to both flora and fauna and are also a source of livelihoods for the communities living around them.
Lake Natron in Northern Tanzania is one such site. Since 2006, the shallow saline lake has drawn global attention as a result of a soda ash mining proposal initially put forward by Tata Chemicals Industries and the Government of Tanzania. They planned to build a soda ash plant at the site but the former withdrew their intention in 2008, following intense opposition from BirdLife International, its partners and Lake Natron Consultative Group. But the Tanzania Government maintained a keen interest.

Lake Natron is the most important breeding site of Lesser Flamingos in the world. The 1.5-2.5 million birds found in East Africa (75% of the world’s population) are hatched there. The proposal drew strong reactions from all quarters including BirdLife International, its partners and Lake Natron Consultative Group.
Following Birdlife International’s successful ‘think pink’ campaign in fending off the original threat, there was a need to do something tangible on the ground. The A.V. Jensen Charity Foundation provided a grant of €300,000 to BirdLife in 2010, to implement a project at Lake Natron building on the success of the campaign to ensure the long term protection of Lake Natron and in turn, protect the near threatened lesser flamingos.

Over time, the Tanzanian Government sent mixed signals regarding its intention on Lake Natron. For example, in March 2011, the President ordered the Ministry of Industry and Trade to fast track plans for the construction of the soda ash plant at Lake Natron. However, in October 2011, the Director of Environment said government intention was to preserve the ecological integrity of the lake by banning damaging human activities. In March 2012, the Government announced that it was working with Tata to explore newly discovered soda ash deposits at Engaruka near Lake Natron, but Tata denied any involvement.
The implementation of the A.V Jensen funded project has drawn immense goodwill of the local communities. At the same time a recent Cost Benefit Analysis report has shown that the soda ash investment is not economically viable.

Project goal:
To protect Lake Natron, the only breeding site for the near-threatened lesser flamingo in East Africa, and use the experience gained in campaigning against damaging development at Lake Natron to safeguard other threatened high biodiversity sites in Africa.


Lake Natron – Final progress report  (PDF 707kb)