Location: Kenya lies astride the equator in Eastern Africa between
Somalia and Tanzania and bordering the Indian Ocean.
Size: The total area of 582,650 square kilometers (somewhat larger
than France) includes 13,400 square kilometers of water, mainly in
Lake Turkana (also known as Lake Rudolf) and Kenya’s portion of
Land Boundaries: Kenya’s land boundaries total 3,477 kilometers.
The country is bounded by Ethiopia (861 kilometers), Somalia (682 kilometers), Sudan (232 kilometers), Tanzania (769 kilometers), and Uganda (933 kilometers).
Length of Coastline: Kenya has 536 kilometers of coastline on the Indian Ocean.
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Maritime Claims: Kenya’s territorial sea extends 12 nautical miles. The exclusive economic (fishing) zone is 200 nautical miles, and the continental shelf extends to a 200-meter depth or to the depth of exploitation.
Topography: Kenya rises from a low coastal plain on the Indian Ocean in a series of plateaus to more than 3,000 meters in the center of the country. An inland region of semi-arid, bush-covered plains constitutes most of the country’s land area. In the northwest, high-lying scrublands straddle Lake Turkana (Lake Rudolf) and the Kulal Mountains. In the southwest lie the fertile grasslands and forests of the Kenya Highlands, one of the most successful agricultural production regions in Africa. North of Nairobi, the Kenya Highlands is bisected by the Great Rift Valley, an irregular depression that cuts through western Kenya from north to south in two branches. The Rift Valley is the location of the country’s highest mountains, including, in the eastern section, the snow-capped Mt. Kenya (5,199 meters), the country’s highest point and Africa’s second highest. In the south, mountain plains descend westward to the shores of Lake Victoria.
Principal Rivers: Kenya’s principal rivers are the 710-kilometer-long Tana, and the Athi, both flowing southeast to the Indian Ocean. Other rivers include the Ewaso Ngiro, flowing northeast to the swamps of the Lorian Plain, and the Nzoia, Yala, and Gori, which drain into Lake Victoria.
Climate: Kenya’s climate varies from tropical along the coast to arid in the interior, especially in the north and northeast. Intermittent droughts affect most of the country. Less than 15 percent of the country receives somewhat reliable rainfall of 760 millimeters or more per year, mainly the southwestern highlands near Lake Victoria and the coastal area, which is tempered by monsoon winds. Most of the country experiences two wet and two dry seasons. The driest month is August, with 24 millimeters average rainfall, and the wettest is April, the period of “long rains,” with 266 millimeters. The hottest month is February, with temperatures of 13°C to 28°C, and the coolest is July, with temperatures of 11°C to 23°C. The highlands feature a bracing temperate climate. Nairobi, at an elevation of 1,820 meters, has a very pleasant climate throughout the year.
Natural Resources: Kenya’s most valuable natural assets are rich agricultural land and a unique physiography and wildlife. The highly diverse wildlife is a key draw for the tourism industry. The country is not well endowed with mineral resources. Mineral resources currently exploited are gold, limestone, soda ash, salt, rubies, fluorspar, and garnets. At present, only 3 percent of the land is forested, a reduction by half over the past three decades. Kenya’s water resources are similarly under pressure. Kenya relies to a significant extent on hydropower.
Land Use: Of Kenya’s land surface, between 7 and 8 percent is arable, while slightly less than 1 percent is in permanent crops. According to a 1998 estimate, irrigated land totaled about 670 square kilometers.
Environmental Factors: Kenya faces serious interrelated environmental problems, including deforestation, soil erosion, desertification, water shortage and degraded water quality, poaching, and domestic and industrial pollution. Water resources are under pressure from agricultural chemicals and urban and industrial wastes, as well as from use for hydroelectric power. A shortage of water is expected to pose a problem in the coming years. Water-quality problems in lakes, including water hyacinth infestation in Lake Victoria, have contributed to a substantial decline in fishing output and endangered fish species. Output from forestry also has declined because of resource degradation. Overexploitation over the past three decades has reduced the country’s timber resources by one-half. At present only 3 percent of the land remains forested, and an estimated 5,000 hectares of forest are lost each year. This loss of forest aggravates erosion, the silting of dams and flooding, and the loss of biodiversity. In response to ecological disruption, activists have pressed with some success for policies that encourage sustainable resource use. The 2004 Nobel Peace Prize went to the Kenyan environmentalist, Wangari Maathai, best known for organizing a grassroots movement in which thousands of people were mobilized over the years to plant 30 million trees in Kenya and elsewhere and to protest forest clearance for luxury development. Imprisoned as an opponent of Moi, Maathai linked deforestation with the plight of rural women, who are forced to spend untold hours in search of scarce firewood and water.
Time Zone: Kenya lies in one time zone, which is three hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time Standard Time (GMT + 3). Kenya does not operate daylight saving time.