Eastern Africa Assessment

The status and distribution of freshwater biodiversity in Eastern Africa

Safeguarding Biodiversity in Eastern Africa's Inland Waters: Incorporating Wildlife Values into Water Resource Development Planning

The project involved assessing biodiversity and collating existing information on the distribution and threatened status number of freshwater species in the inland waters of five eastern Africa countries.

Biodiversity in eastern Africa's inland waters is globally significant, not only for the exceptional number of species, but also for the high level of reliance on these species by local communities. For example, each of the African Great Lakes contains more endemic fish species than any other lake in the world. Lake Victoria's fisheries alone provide protein for approximately eight million people and support over 100,000 artisanal fishermen.

With major plans evolving to develop the region's water resources for provision of drinking water, sanitation, irrigation, and power, potential impacts on biodiversity must be assessed and adequately considered. Numerous projects and massive expenditure have already amassed a vast body of biodiversity information that could be usefully applied in the planning and development process but can those that need it find it? Are the decision makers aware of the information available? In many cases the answer is "no". The existing information is so widely dispersed and becomes so rapidly outdated as project finances dry up, that it is often of little use to those that need it.

The IUCN Freshwater Biodiversity Assessment Programme completed a regional assessment of biodiversity in the inland waters of five eastern Africa countries. The project was launched through a training workshop hosted by IUCN's East Africa Regional Office in Nairobi in May 2003. More than 25 experts in freshwater biodiversity and policy development from Malawi, Tanzania, Burundi, Kenya and Uganda attended the workshop where training was provided in biodiversity data management and assessing species' status according to the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria. Training was provided by Species Programme staff with assistance from Mary Seddon, SSC Mollusc Specialist Group Chair.

The project collated existing information on the distribution and threatened status of a number of priority species including freshwater molluscs, fishes, decapod crabs, and odonates (dragonflies) throughout the region. The information will be passed directly to individuals involved in decision making concerning the conservation and development of inland water resources regionally. It will be made available throughout the region and will ultimately be made accessible, and be updated, through the Internet. The project mobilised and used products from numerous projects that have been implemented throughout the region over the past few decades.

The project forms part of the IUCN Species Programme's global programme of biodiversity assessment.

Project partners

Netherlands Government Ministry of Foreign Affairs - Directorate-General for International Cooperation (DGIS) through Wetlands International

IUCN Water and Nature Initative

IUCN East and Southern Africa Regional Office