Lake Turkana

Bio-physical and demographic characteristics

  • World’s largest permanent desert and alkaline lake

  • Shared by Kenya and Ethiopia

  • Surface area = 6,405 km², shoreline = 820 km

  • Lake is shallow, with a mean depth of 30 m and a maximum depth of 109 m

  • Basin is sparsely populated, with a population density of ~six persons per km2

  • Basin residents are amongst the poorest in Kenya with 94% living in poverty

Values and investment opportunities

  • Lake Turkana has ~50 fish species of which 11 are endemic

  • Lake Turkana supports over >350 native and migratory bird species

  • Subsistence fishing, together with agro-pastoralism, support livelihoods of about 300,000 Kenyans, mainly from six tribal groups

  • Commercial fisheries in the region therefore provides an investment opportunity as fishery resources in the lake seem to be underexploited

  • Lake is a recreation area, for swimming, sport fishing, and other marine sports

  • Three national parks provide tourism opportunities

Ecological and economic concerns

  • Water balance and lake fisheries are highly sensitive to rainfall and drought, which is expected to worsen with climate change

  • Ecosystem services of Lake Turkana are threatened by habitat degradation, biodiversity loss, pollution and climate change

  • Development of oil resources, especially in the western shores of the lake

  • Upstream and downstream impacts as a result of construction of Gibe III hydropower dam and large irrigation scheme


  • Riparian countries have national policies and regulations for development and management of resources within the basin

  • Management activities within the lake basin are funded by national governments as well as short-term internationally funded projects

  • Lack of regional institution to coordinate harmonization of management interventions across the basin

Potential sustainable development interventions

  • Stimulate actions on this lake as Lake Turkana has received least attention of the AGL

  • Network national, regional, international, and community efforts

  • Develop sustainable funding mechanisms and promote partnerships

  • Increase awareness through sharing of information and best practices

  • Develop economic incentives for livelihood diversification