Fundamentally, feedback is a good thing. It is an important tool for shaping outputs and fostering learning that will drive better performance.
Coral reef surveys are common practices carried out in reef locations in different parts of the world to quantify and understand the health of these natural resources for management interventions. In most cases, these surveys are often collaborative in nature to incorporate diverse stakeholders’ interests. Unfortunately, there is sometimes a disconnect when it comes to the dissemination of outputs from these seemingly joint ventures. Quite often, feedback sessions fall within the cracks of scientists’ busy schedules thus obscuring the contribution of different stakeholders and co-development of outputs and products.
On the morning of 12th October, our team consisting of Swaleh Aboud, Peter Musembi, Chula Mwagona and Abigail Mwalimu set out to disseminate key findings of a joint scientific reef survey exercise conducted from November 2020 to April 2021. The feedback sessions targeted different stakeholders ie KWS, BMU members, boat operators, CCA members, fisheries and other stakeholders in five sites along Kenya’s Northern coast, two southern sites and one site in Mombasa.
The team embarked on the feedback sessions in the northern sites setting base in Watamu where they operated for three days. From Watamu, the team conducted dissemination meetings Marereni, Malindi and Watamu Marine Park and Reserves.
Dissemination was designed as three-hour sessions comprising of four parts i.e., Introduction, Survey findings (methodology and results), Q&A, Discussions and steps forward. To accommodate the community, the sessions were conducted in Swahili and participants were encouraged to interject the presenter, seek clarification or react to any point. Open interactive discussions were allowed at the end of each session and this gave the participant more time to reflect and react to the whole exercise and products presented.
Participants had an opportunity to react to the feedback by providing their opinions on whether the results reflected the real situation in these sites that they frequently visited. Further discussions on the different methods employed in data collection by different stakeholders were conducted. This outlined the data collected by various groups and identified data needs or whether they are indicators that are not collected and need to be collected. This culminated in a session of if and how different datasets can contribute to the management of the respective sites.
In each site, with the help of the participants, we were able to identify possible threats to the coral reefs in their local area. Sedimentation, pollution and illegal fishing activities were identified as major local challenges facing coral reefs in these areas.
Lessons learnt and next steps
These sessions provided a platform for stakeholders to understand the status of coral reefs in their sites and for us to engage and understand resource users and managers perspectives on their coral reefs. It highlighted critical issues that can be addressed to promote active and effective coral management.
Following the session, the CORDIO team will compile discussion points and create a brief coral reef status report by location, which will be shared with all stakeholders. The session’s discussion topics will also be incorporated in National Coral reef Assessment Process to inform coral reef management and policy in Kenya. Further, we will continue to strengthen stakeholders’ participation in different aspects of coral reef monitoring and management through training and discussion forums.