Tana River

tana river

Size and Location

Tana River County covers a total surface area of 38,437km2 and accounts for 6.61% of Kenya’s total surface area. The County, named after the Tana River itself, borders Garissa to the North, Isiolo to the Northwest, Lamu to the Northeast, Kilifi to the Southeast, Taita Taveta to the South, and Kitui to the West.

Headquarters and Major Towns

The County’s capital is the town of Hola which has a population of 17,337. Other major towns include Madogo and Garsen.

Geography and Climate

Tana River County is situated in a semi-arid area with annual relief rainfall varying between 400mm and 750mm with a mean annual temperature ranging between 30oC and 33oC. The district is generally dry and prone to drought. Rainfall is erratic, with rainy seasons in March–May and October–December. Conflicts have occurred between farmers and nomadic peoples over access to water. Flooding is also a regular problem, caused by heavy rainfall in upstream areas of the Tana River.

Tana River district comprises several areas of forest, woodland and grassland which are minor centres of endemism. Despite the apparent adequate natural resources, the region remains marginalised from the rest of the country.

The People of Tana River County

Based on the 2009 Kenya Population and Housing Census, the county had a population of 240,075 which accounted for 0.6% of the total Kenyan population.

The major ethnic groups are the Pokomo, many of whom are farmers, and the Orma and Wardei, who are predominantly nomadic.

Electoral Units

The county is divided into 3 constituencies and 15 wards. The constituencies are:

  1. Bura,
  2. Galole
  3. Garsen.

Location: The county borders Garissa to the North, Isiolo to the Northwest, Lamu to the Northeast, Kilifi to the Southeast, Taita Taveta to the South, and Kitul to the West  

Area (Km 2): 38,436.9Km 2

Climate/Weather: Tana River is situated in a semi-arid area with annual relief rainfall varying between 400mm and 750mm with a mean annual temperature ranging between 30°C and 33°C.

Road Network: Data Not Available

Tana River County

Population: 240,075 (Male - 47 %, Female - 53%)

Population Density: 6.2 people per Km 2

National Percentage: 0.62 %

Annual Growth Rate: 3.4 %

Age Distribution: 0-14 years (50.9 %), 15-64 years (46.2 %), 65+ years (2.9 %)

Number of Households: 47, 414

Potential Minerals: Barite, illmenite, Iron ore, Uranium, Gypsum

 Agriculture and Livestock Rearing

Farming and nomadic pastoralism are the main economic activities in Tana River County due to the dry conditions and erratic rainfall patterns experienced in the county.

The Tana River is a major water resource in the area. The expansive delta created by the river is characterized by wetlands, presenting great potential for agriculture. It provides grazing area during the dry season and is a tourist attraction. The water is used for irrigation of rice, banana, maize, mangoes and soya beans.

Wildlife and Tourism

Riverine forest, woodland, grassland, bushlands, lakes, open river channels, sand dunes, mangroves and coastal waters contribute to making Tana River County one of the most ecologically diverse habitats and a tourist attraction in the country.

The county has the potential to its wildlife and visitor attraction assets as leverage to improve the livelihoods of its people. These assets include the rare primates and aquatic animals at the Tana Delta, beach tourism along the Indian Ocean, water sports and game fishing.

tanariver economic status

Source: KNBS census 2009


  1. Employed- those people that are working
  2. Not employed- those people that are potential employees but have not secured any form of employment.
  3. Economically inactive- the non-working age that comprises of very old and young people in the population.
  4. Unclassified- the population that had not indicated their economic category.

Tana River County is challenged with low education enrollment rates especially among female children.

tanariver education

Number of Institutions (2007): Primary (136), Secondary (10)

Primary: Enrollment (40, 832)

Teacher to Pupil Ratio: 1: 46.2 (Public Schools)

Secondary: Enrollment (2, 640)

Teacher to Pupil Ratio: 1:31 (Public Schools)

Tertiary: Data Not Available

Adult Literacy Classes: Data Not Available

Health Facilities: District Hospitals (2), Sub-District Hospitals (None), Dispensaries (47), Health Centres (5), Medical Clinics (4),

Key Statistics

  • Notable Hospitals: Hola District Hospital and Ngao District Hospitals
  • Doctor to Population Ratio: 1: 95,500
  • Infant Mortality Rates: 66/1000
  • Under Five Mortality Rates: 80/1000

tanariver health

Prevalent Diseases: Malaria, Respiratory Tract Infections, Skin Diseases, Diarrhoea and HIV/AIDs.

The HIV/AIDS prevalence in the county in comparison to other coastal counties is as shown below:

tanariver HIV


  • Increased Government and development partners interested in the Delta for sugarcane, rice and ranching
  • ASAL (Arid and Semi-arid Land) development
  • Drive for peaceful co-existence with other communities in the region including prospects of peace in Somalia
  • Growth in eco-tourism (Tana Primate Game Reserve and Delta)
  • Value addition for livestock products
  • Value addition from fishing products
  • The underexploited potential in the marine sector
  • Water-sports-based tourism
  • Livestock rearing such as ostrich, guinea fowls, turtles, chameleons etc.
  • Crop farming using drought resistant/escaping crops
  • Commercial production of medicinal plants such as Aloe Vera and Prunus Africana
  • Irrigated agriculture using Tana River especially sugarcane farming


  • Occasional ethnic conflict over dwindling internal resources between the pastoralists and the farming communities
  • Weak human capital base due to low investment in education
  • Poor or non-existent physical infrastructure such as roads, irrigation canals, factories, hospitals and telecommunications
  • Fragile eco-system that is being pushed to the limit
  • The collapse of traditional pasture management practices
  • A debilitated land tenure system
  • Cultural practices that render uptake of new ideas difficult such as attitude towards the girl child and attachment to cattle.
  • Isolated incidences of insecurity in the region
  • Endemic poverty and rising population.

Tana River-County-Fact-Sheets_Dec-2011_056


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