Community capabilities and marine governance

Conserving a Marine Protected Area and improving local livelihoods

Subject: Governance of MPAs
Location: Watamu Marine National Park and Mida Creek
Leader: Allan Majalia

Bringing people together to tackle threats to the marine environment

Watamu Marine National Park (WMNP) was designated a Marine Protected Area in 1968. Its coral reefs are home to over 500 species of fish, as well as turtles, manta rays and whale sharks. Together with the white sandy beaches these attract many tourists to the area.

Despite its protected status three key threats to its conservation have been identified by local stakeholders:

  1. unsustainable fishing and recreational practices
  2. exclusion of marginal groups
  3. decline of habitats and species upon which livelihoods depend

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are one of the primary vehicles for marine conservation. The term refers to any predefined coastal or marine area that is afforded some kind of special protection for the benefit of its species and habitats, or the overall health of the ecosystem, and also where possible for the benefit of society.

Watamu Marine National Park

A Rocha Kenya has been working to protect animals and plants in the MPA from development and degradation and to build a common vision for the protected area amongst agencies and communities

Bringing people together

A Rocha Kenya is working with the Marine and Coast Environment Team at University of St. Andrews, Scotland, led by Dr Tim Stojanovic to implement an approach called the Governance Baseline Tool. This approach brings together organisations and communities local to WMNP, presenting evidence and trends from natural and social science assessments and allowing professional and community stakeholders to reflect and deliberate on agreed courses of action for conservation and community wellbeing. This process is supported by the management authority Kenya Wildlife Service and their partnership in this process provides an important avenue for local input to positively impact the park. It will both improve understanding of sustainability and facilitate collective action towards it, thus contributing to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 14, Life below water.

Watamu workshop

Working in partnership to benefit nature and people

Alternative livelihoods

Marginal groups have been found to engage in activities that damage the marine environment to make their living. A key outcome of the project is to identify alternative  pro-conservation livelihoods which are environmentally sustainable, and to support the transition towards these activities, particularly amongst marginal groups. This should mean a reduction in unsustainable fishing practices, and help protect habitats and species upon which other livelihoods depend.

Good news

MPAs are expanding worldwide. The challenge is to make these MPAs more effective and not just lines drawn on maps. Photo: Tim Stojanovic

  • 300

    households surveyed in 2 communities

  • 30

    stakeholders engaged in the Governance Tool

Mitigating the effects of the Covid 19 crisis on coastal communities of Watamu

A livelihoods and wellbeing survey was carried out and provided basic finance to survive food and income shortages during the C19 crisis, communicate C19 messages and review the success of existing alternative livelihoods initiatives.

In addition, a community ‘marine scouts’ programme provided unemployed and less-educated youth over 18 years with training and stipend pay. The programme involved the local youth in collecting data for surveys concerning village elders, community groups, fishermen groups and bird monitoring, from the villages adjacent to the Watamu MPA.

Project in partnership with