Politics of Yala Swamp and Dominion Farms in Kenya

Posted on 9 August 2007. Filed under: Environment, Politics |

Dominion Farms Limited is a multinational international firm owned by an American entrepreneur Mr. Calvin Burgess of Edmund Oklahoma, USA.

The firm entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of Kenya in 2004, which leased it 3000 hectares of the original 6000 hectares Dominion Farms had requested. Since then the firm has been producing large quantity of maize, cotton, sunflower , rice, groundnuts on the already reclaimed area. It has also started a bee keeping and fish farming project which is meant to boost the economy and food production.

Both the government and opposition Members of Parliament are happy with the activities of Dominion Farms and talk is rife that Mr. Burgess recently requested President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya to consider increasing the lease allocation to 17,500 hectares of the Yala River Swamp located next Lake Victoria to cover more areas and benefit the local communites who, according to Mr. Burgess, are the among the poorest in Kenya – more than 80% of whom live below $1 a day – in addition to facing the grim realities of HIV/Aids, Malaria and extreme weather conditions.

However, it has not been smooth sailing for Dominion Farms. Lobby groups and environmental activists have raised serious concerns with Kenyan and UNEP authorities about alleged environmental destruction and human rights abuses committed by Dominion Farms in Kenya’s Yala Swamp. The firm is being accused of that its industrial agriculture and aquaculture projects threaten the integrity of the Yala Swamp ecosystem and the health and well being of up to 1 million residents. It has also been accused of flooding private agricultural and grazing lands as well as homes, forced thousands of people (with compensation) to relocate against their will, cutting fishermen off from communal fishing areas, and contaminating water that people and animals use for drinking. For this reason they say, it is vital that Dominion Farms’ proposed expansion and new projects each be thoroughly and independently assessed for the impacts they will have on the swamp ecosystem and the human population. They say that no corporation should be permitted to profit at the expense of irreplaceable natural resources and human rights. Infact, some lobbyist have likened Dominion Farms activities in Kenya as “re-colonization by multinational corporations”.
“It’s forty-four years since Kenyans won independence. Now they’re fighting for self determination again,” said Paula Palmer of Global Response.

Whether the lobbyist succeed in ending the activities of Dominion Farms in Yala Swamp remain to be seen. With the General Elections looming in December 2007, the Government of Kenya is keen not to upset local communities who are happy with the commercial activities of the multinational company.

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21 Responses to “Politics of Yala Swamp and Dominion Farms in Kenya”

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Yala swamp project of dominion is not helping the community but the well to do individuals both in oppistion and some top civil service and the claim that if the project is stop then it will upset the community is very wrong.In fact some memebrs of the community have lost life and cattles in large numbers,by the time am writing this mail there are two cases in bondo and three in siaya law courts respectively .The cases are between members of the community who have refused to be evicted out of there land and dominion group of company

Dear Mr. Owalla , are you a member of the friends of the yala society ? I have read about the problems with Dominion Farms in the german magazine ‘ der Spiegel’. I want to have a contact with the local oposition to get more information. I want to contact important people to help .
My e-mail adress is : mathiconradi@gmx.de
Matthias Conradi , Germany

Dominion is an element of neocolonisation being practice by the west in the name of poverty allevaition.

Dominion is doing a great job. The benefits are being felt already.There is employemnt and large food productionfood

whatb do you consider development?is chasing birds in a farm employment?or making people not to farm aspect of new development?please educate me here.
chris owalla

chasing birds from 8am to 6pm is what we call development? I hv visited the farm n yet to ldentify its benefits to the community

have the people of the around the yala swamp complined by themselves or its the work of a spokeperson who has hired him/herself to complain for them. please politics will never go inline with progress

It’s like H.L. Mencken said, “For every difficult and complicated question there is an answer that is simple, easily understood and wrong.” Many people fear if we just allow Africa to wallow in poverty, more Muslim extremists will turn the continent into another Sudan or Nigeria sending us back to the 8th century. Not a good thing!

One shouldn’t judge the quality of people’s lives by how many dollars they make per day.
What good is dollars today when tomorrow your water is polluted and killing babies, when you don’t own any land, and when you grow only rice whose price on the world market has plummeted. Then you have REALLY been made poor.

In his response to a Business Week article about foreign agro-businesses acquiring land in Africa, Dominion CEO Calvin Burgess writes: “It is true that a few did not take the money for their land but it is still held in trust for them.” Does that mean that these people were unwilling to sell, and INSPITE of that, Dominion went ahead and turned their land into a reservoir for its own benefit?

Evelyne, There is a documentary “Good Fortune” which shows the injury and povertization Dominion Farms is inflicting on the lives and livelihood of the local people and how the residents are seeking help. For the latest update on the flooding of the home of Jackson Omondi by Dominion please see:


As the Boro West Electoral Area Councillor, within which the Dominion Farms Ltd operates, by the aggrieved communities, I must confirm below the sun that what the world has so far attributed to growth and development as corollary to scientific agriculture on the Yala Swamp floor is but underdevelopment.
Away from sources exotic who do dominate reporting on the Yala Swamp conquest and the socio economic disequilibrium thereof, as the area people representative at the County Council of Siaya, have issues

We have completly lost in this fight.l have always believed that investors come with change,but insead we have lost our land,constant spraining n to make it even worse,we have been denied acess to river yala,is this what u calldevelopment?convince me pliz

The documentary related to Yala Swamp and the Dominion Farms was shown in Kathmandu in Kathmandu International Mountain Film Festival lately. Everyone liked it and it showed how the poverty eradication projects fail to address the real poor in the populace. It had a strong message! bravo to the director.

[…] farm is being flooded by an American investor who hopes to alleviate poverty by creating a multi-million dollar rice farm (Dominion […]

Dominion is doing great job i think and to me i do fail to understand nor i don’t agree with Dorothy that dominion took over yala swamp,my question is ,where do you want the farm to get that water for irrigation?or do you mean to say you want the Dom farm to buy water for irrigation?if your answer might be yes then you are a Ugandan citizen.

You mean the Government of Kenya could not reclaim this land? How has Dominion Farms contributed to ensuring food security, poverty reduction and lowering the cost of living to local community?

dominion settled on a reclaimed land!

I think that the story is very familiar of rich men with big investment ideas who always cite “benefits” to local communities as their justification.These are however commonly highly exagerated while the cons are not even revealed let alone underplayed.America is quite familiar with such exploits.Victims tend to be remotely located and native.Natives outside the West will usually be more ignorant and accommodating to their enticment, and their governments more malleable. The perpetrators are always happy t

The perpetrators are always happy to have a few ignoramuses sound their trumpet.Some being well oiled.
But are the much mentioned farm produce distributed free of charge?Are all the displaced (and their descendants) employed? What is the real benefit of this project?
Loss of the environment is always loss to all globally- the plants,the animals and man.

Do you train people on production activities in your institute? if so how can one get admitted, and how long does it take to recruit new applicants.

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