The Loiyangalani Wind Power Project is Africa’s largest wind energy project and Kenya’s largest public-private partnership in history. The Loiyangalani Wind Power Project generates 300MW of renewable energy at a cheap cost for Kenya’s national grid.
Kenya has long been a green energy leader, with 70% of its electricity coming from renewable sources, as part of the government’s objectives to encourage renewable energy in line with the Vision 2030 national development strategy.
This idea is anchored by the Lake Turkana Wind Power project.
The Loiyangalani Wind Power Project covers an area of 607km². The wind farm project takes approximately 162 km² of that larger area. It is situated on the shores of Lake Turkana in the Sarima valley of Marsabit County, northern Kenya.
This has long been a neglected section of the country, and the populations that live there have been highly hesitant about the project.
Rendille, Samburu, and Turkana pastoralists use the concession to graze animals seasonally and for water spots. This area has a long history of pastoralist migrations and is culturally significant. The Rendille’s Galgulame event, which takes place every 14 years and commemorates the transition of young people into adults, is held at the concession.
A Samburu clan can also be traced back to a water pool in Sarima. In addition, the business relocated a Turkana village located near the wind turbines.
Loiyangalani Wind Power Project is part of a larger trend of large-scale infrastructure projects in historically neglected, pastoralist areas, such as oil exploration in Kenya’s Turkana County and Ethiopia’s Gilgel Gibe 3 Dam on the Omo River. These sectors, which were formerly deemed peripheral to national growth, are now taking center stage in national economic goals.
We wanted to learn more about the people who continue to live in and use the concession area of the project. Specifically, how the wind power project has impacted neighborhood ties and how they perceive the Loiyangalani Wind Power Project.
We uncovered a multifaceted picture of aspiration, marginalization, and conflict based on fieldwork and interviews conducted in Sirima Valley. It sparked intense debate among the locals over who is legally entitled to the leased land and to the investment’s financial rewards.
It is appropriate to commemorate Africa’s largest wind power facility in the face of a pressing global climate emergency. But as our research demonstrates, extractive and oil industries can have many of the same unsettling effects on nearby communities as large-scale renewable energy projects.
A significant portion of the corporate narrative surrounding the wind farm implies that it is bringing growth to a previously undeveloped area that requires investment.
This, however, masks a more complicated past. On the leased property, Rendille, Samburu, and Turkana populations coexisted and competed over its resources.
This was not adequately considered by the consortium that owns Loiyangalani Wind Power Project, which consists of four private investors and numerous national development funds. Additionally, it has been charged with violating the rights of the local communities.
During the project’s construction, the indigenous local population was excluded in a number of ways. For instance, it was decided that the Rendille, Samburu, and Turkana people that reside in the sirima valley are not considered “indigenous” by the Loiyangalani Wind Power Project.
International definitions of indigenousness were violated by this. A process of free prior and informed consent, which would have helped to protect the economic, social, and cultural rights of impacted communities during the development of the Loiyangalani Wind Power Project, could no longer be implemented by the firm as a result of the ruling.
Like numerous companies buying enormous tracts of land in Africa, Lake Turkana Wind Power benefited from historically weak regulations defending communal land.
The now-defunct Marsabit County Council leased the land with little local input. The land was allegedly leased illegally, according to the court lawsuit that was subsequently filed.
In a region already burdened by local conflict and retaliations over land rights, there are worries that the project has heightened tensions between communities as citizens assert their right to obtain jobs and goodwill contributions from the partnership.
The surrounding area will not receive the energy produced by the project because it is not wired into the national grid. Access to employment and investments in corporate social responsibility are hence the benefits that people want.
By claiming custody of the concession land, the communities stake their claims to benefits.
In addition to creating some jobs, Lake Turkana Wind Power has implemented an ongoing program of corporate social responsibility that includes offering new water sources.
High expectations and unmet demands coexist together, though. As a result, there is a great deal of discontent and a perception that some communities are being given preferential treatment.
The quest for national development is frequently a process of exclusion rather than inclusion for communities living on Kenya’s resource boundaries.