As I kicked my fins and snorkelled down again and again onto the reef to look closely at the corals and swim amongst the reef fish, it reminded me why I work for WWF…
The work we support in Kenya is so important, because we contribute to saving amazing places such as the coral reefs of Lamu in north-east Kenya where I was visiting.
I had spent the previous week on a hotel rooftop on the ancient Islamic island of Lamu planning and helping to deliver a workshop with colleagues and representatives from the local wildlife management agencies and communities. The workshop was to agree how best to go about monitoring and then evaluating how effective our work is that we are carrying out in the coastal forests on the mainland.
Monitoring and evaluation is a side of our work that – though key to effective delivery of environmental conservation work – seldom gets featured in what we communicate to the public.
Lamu Island is a UNESCO world cultural heritage site with an ancient Islamic port with hundreds of traditional dhows and the island has no cars. The wider Lamu land and seascape is an amazing place – the largest remaining areas of coastal forests in Kenya are found on the mainland, habitat for endangered species such as hunting dogs, Ader’s duiker, and the Hirola antelope as well as leopard, buffalo and elephants, some of which have been captured on camera using camera trap technology.
It is also the most important area of the country for turtle nesting with the critically endangered Hawksbill and endangered Olive Ridely and Green Turtles laying their eggs on Lamu’s beaches. The largest mangrove stand are found here and the coral reefs are amongst the most pristine in Kenya. Both are hugely important for local fisheries and thus local people. 70 percent of people in Lamu are dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods.
However, clearing of forests for agriculture, infrastructure and fuel-wood, poaching and overfishing, use of destructive fishing methods and pollution all take their toll on local wildlife and the habitats on which they depend. A huge deep-water port and supporting infrastructure is also planned for Lamu which will further impact local ecosystems as well as the fisheries that people depend on so heavily.
We’re working to better protect the coastal forests and coastal waters of Lamu through awareness raising, undertaking research to better understand the diversity of wildlife and its value, supporting local livelihoods to reduce their daily dependence on natural resources, supporting local government wildlife management agencies and by empowering local communities to sustainably manage and protect their natural resources.
How we monitor this and then evaluate it to really understand how and where we have been successful – but also what didn’t work so well – is vital if we are to effectively deal with the multitude of threats posed to wildlife and peoples livelihoods.
The workshop on Lamu island was a key step towards enabling us to do this in the local coastal forests – the snorkel on the reef after a long week was a timely reminder of just how amazing this part of the world is and why we’re so committed to protecting the natural world.
To follow our work in the coastal forests of Lamu, why not sign up to the bi-monthly blog written by John Bett, the coordinator of the project. Any donation you make through the Size of Wales is doubled!
We are grateful to Size of Wales and the UK Department for International Development and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs through the Darwin Initiative, for their support to the Boni-Dodori Sustainable Forests programme, Lamu, Kenya.
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