The coasts of the UK and Kenya might seem worlds apart, but over the last few weeks I’ve had the opportunity to learn that there are actually many similarities and that we share many of the same opportunities and challenges.
Earlier this month, we hosted the WWF-UK marine team here in Kenya. We’ve been working closely, but remotely, with this team for some time but this was the first opportunity for us all to get together face-to-face and share our learnings and ideas. It was also the first opportunity for us to get out into the field together my UK colleagues to experience the work firsthand.
A big area of focus for us during our time together was to share experiences and expertise on marine spatial planning, You might have heard that in Kenya there’s a mandate to undertake county level spatial planning. We’ve been working hard to ensure that marine spatial planning is also prioritised. With the help of our WWF-UK colleagues, we held a workshop with government and NGO experts to discuss the plans for marine spatial planning in Kenya, drawing on approaches and lessons from marine spatial planning in Europe. We achieved a renewed commitment to marine spatial panning in Kenya at a national and regional level. The next step is to ensure that WWF and other stakeholders can provide effective input to this process.
We also talked a lot about effective stakeholder engagement. It was comforting to hear that many of the challenges that we face are also faced by colleagues working in the UK, and that we could work together to find solutions. The UK marine team shared with us some techniques they had used for engaging with stakeholders, including stakeholder mapping to determine the type and level of engagement needed, and identifying key people to influence. We then started to think about applying this learning to a specific case we’ve been grappling with here on the coast. We’re helping to establish Takaungu marine co-management area but we’ve been struggling to get engagement from the local Beach Management Units and state fisheries authorities. I’m really looking forward to trying out some of the approaches we discussed to help mobilise better engagement.
Takaungu, in Kilifi County was actually one of the locations we took our UK colleagues to whilst they were here in Kenya. We went to meet the Takaungu Beach Management Unit (BMU) to give them a better understanding of BMU management processes and to allow us all to talk more about stakeholder engagement. Whilst we were there we visited a local fish market where one of the local fishermen was outraged that fish were being sold in the market that were undersized (an indication of unsustainable practices). It was a great demonstration of how local people can take responsibility for managing their own environment. This message was reiterated by a visit to the sacred Kaya Kauma forest. Here elders from the local community have formed a committee that has responsibility for managing the area and traditional practices are helping to protect it. It is easy to see how those born in the forest can feel a strong sense of stewardship for their own area, but this highlighted the challenge of creating this sense of stewardship for sea areas which most people have never visited!
We were sure to visit Mombasa marine protected area too. Partly, this was so that the UK team could see the incredible biodiversity that Kenya has to offer but also so that we could learn more about Kenya Wildlife Service’s approaches to managing these areas and think about the commonalties and the differences to approaches in Europe.
The time spent with our colleagues from WWF-UK was incredibly fruitful. It highlighted that we have shared goals, passion and aspirations towards sustainable marine resource management in the UK and Kenya. We look forward to working together to realise this.