Kenya: Agricultural company's impacts on communities & workers in Yala swamp


Place: Yala swamp covers 200square km in western Kenya. It covers the North- Eastern shore of Lake Victoria in Siaya and Bondo districts

Time: 2004-ongoing


Companies involved: Dominion Farms

Sectors: Agriculture

Documented by: N/A

Organization: Jamaa Resources

1. General details about the incident or ongoing situation.

State of livelihood

   The community members are not among the "hundreds and thousands of employees who benefit indirectly" from the "wonders" Dominion has done for their "health, wealth and attitude." Their homes are small and sometimes in poor condition, and while some have electricity, most lack running water. These communities traditionally relied on the Yala River and Yala Swamp as their water sources. Because Dominion has redirected the Yala River through its weir to use it in irrigating rice paddies and in their tilapia ponds, the company has directed some of the water to areas outside its gates. Here, locals come to gather water and carry it back to their homes.

 Terms of employment

 Despite its large size, Dominion is not a very large employer as most of its operations (planting, harvesting, and milling) are mechanized. The farm has approximately 400 employees. Some locals who are employed to do weeding, transplanting rice, and scaring birds by shaking containers for of rocks. Many of the more skilled jobs are given to college educated Kenyans who come from outside the local area. Dominion also subcontracts with a security company that employs 100 people as security personnel. Nearby farms of local inhabitants are typically between two and five acres, with large families working on them and occasionally a few hired farmworkers as well. Thus, the land area of Dominion Farms provides fewer jobs than an equivalent amount of land in this area that is devoted to small family farms. Outside of its gates. Here, locals come to gather water and carry it back to their homes.

1.1  Nature of the incident or situation: Describe what happened, or what is still happening (if an ongoing situation).

Before dominion farm was occupied, the land was a natural swampland, it was utilized by locals as a place to gather fuel, wild foods, animal fodder, and materials for building and handicrafts. The swamp also provided ecosystem services to the area as a filter for sediment and pollutants and a refuge for fish species that have long ago disappeared.

 Today, instead of living alongside a swamp that filters out biocides, local communities are exposed to drift and water contamination from frequent pesticide spraying by the crop dusting planes and other machines over Dominion's large area.

1.2 Timeframe: When did this happen, or when did it begin (if an ongoing situation)?

Dominion Farms came into existence since the year 2004

1.3 Location: Where did this occur / where is it occurring (if an ongoing situation), e.g. name of village, town, country, significant landmarks.

Yala swamp covers 200square km in western Kenya. It covers the North- Eastern shore of Lake Victoria in Siaya and Bondo districts .

1.4 People affected: How many people are affected?  How many people could potentially be affected?  Tell us a bit about the people affected (e.g. characteristics of the community, or, if an individual, relevant history)

People affected 1000

Households from the local community.

Around 100 more households could potentially be affected.

Characteristics of the community:

The community members used to be mixed famers as they could grow crops and keep animals.

 Apart from this they were also fishermen as they could get fish from Lake Kanyaboli which is a fresh water lake. All these economic activities took place before dominion farms came in and the whole environment was polluted.

Now the locals are casual laborers with an average wage of 1.82 dollars per day.

2. Actors involved

2.1 Business: Name of the company or companies involved in this incident or ongoing situation, and nature of their involvement, if known.

Dominion Farms.

2.2. Government: Were / are local or national government officials or security forces involved as well?  If so, what specific actions or role did they play, if known?

2.3 Others: If you are aware of any other actors involved in this incident or situation, please describe (e.g. foreign aid agencies, international banks)


3.1 Aim:What outcome are you hoping to achieve, through documentation followed by further steps that are taken? Desired outcome.

The aim of this complaint is NOT to send away dominion farms. But to follow due process and to adhere to human rights standards. The main object for this complaint is not for dominion farm to exit but for the company to follow due diligence and uphold the human rights standards of doing business which are as follows.

  • All business should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights and make sure they are not complicit in human rights.
  • Business should uphold the freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to bargaining
  • Business should support  a precautionary approach to environmental challenge
  • Undertake   initiative  to promote greater environmental responsibility
  • Business should encourage the development and diffusion of environmentally friendly technology.

3.2. Obstacles: What are the main obstacles or barriers to achieving this aim?

  • Disclosure of social and environmental impact assessment report from the company.
  • Resistance from the company to disclose terms of employment of the local employees.
  • This Includes NHIF and NSSF benefits.
  • The local employees are not free to air out their grievances since they are afraid of their job security. This targets mostly women as they do not have alternative of sources on income to fend for their families.

4. Previous steps

4.1 Communication with business and government: Have you already communicated with the company or government about this situation, and if so what was the response?

Yes indeed we have communicated to the county government over the issue.

Response: The government has been taking the case to court but no concrete verdict has been made.

[See attempt to reach out to company here]

4.2 Communication with outside groups: Have you communicated about the incident with any additional outside individuals or groups?  If so, whom and what was the response?

  Both local and international Non- governmental organizations have been doing case studies on the situation. The locals response, is that most of these organizations are using them as ``guinea pigs’’ in order to get financial gains.

Some of these organizations include,

  • Institute for law and environmental governance (ILEG)
  • Kenya Land Alliance
  • Kituo Cha Sheria
  • Kenya Wetlands.

4.3. Actions (including legal): Has any action already been taken to address this situation, or is any action underway or planned?  If so, please explain what was done, any obstacles encountered, and any outcomes so far.  (Examples could include legal action, community organization, media outreach or others)

 The government has been taking the case to court but no concrete verdict has been made.

4.4 Documentation: Have any written reports or visual material (videos, photos etc) been published about the incident or ongoing situation?  If so, please provide details.

 Please see the attachment below

5. Current and potential threats or danger

5.1 Are there any threats or danger to you, to other stakeholders, or to any advocates who are working on behalf of those who have been harmed?  Please describe the nature of these threats.

5.2 Is there any concern that there may be additional harm in the imminent future?

6. Other information

6.1 Where relevant, please provide any broader context, background or history relating to this incident or ongoing situation.

Dominion Farms arrived in Kenya's Yala Swamp basin in 2004 with big promises. The company claimed it would turn a defunct state demonstration farm into a modern rice plantation, provide locals with good jobs, and build hospitals and schools. The American owner of the company, Calvin Burgess, presented himself as a 'man of God', on a mission to bring US-style progress to Africa. The locals, sold on this grand vision, decided – with some hesitation and dissent – to allow Dominion to farm on 3,700 ha of their lands.But a decade later, the communities have harvested nothing but hardship.

case study Jamaa Resources Initiative

Photo 1.  A lady addressing locals in a meeting

Photo 2.  Youth addressing a group of women who are also employees of dominion farms

Photo 3. A group of women from Kadenge village 5min away from dominion farm

Photo 4.   apiece of article from the daily newspaper addressing dominion farm issues

Photo 5. a member of international NGO

Photo 6 Member of county assembly (Mr.Silvester Madialo  Usonga )

Photo 7.member of county assembly(Mr.Elisha  Okuku   East Yimbo)