Sustainable financing for community-based marine management in the Western Indian Ocean

Sustainable financing for community-based marine management in the Western Indian Ocean

Insufficient long-term funding has long hindered the effective management of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and community-based marine management particularly, Locally Managed Marine Areas (LMMAs) in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO).

Management entities are consistently unable to meet long term operational costs and many existing LMMAs in the region remain heavily reliant on external donors for their establishment and running. As such, there is a need for an improved understanding of the costs of LMMAs, to local communities and other stakeholders involved in the management, in order to then develop and integrate appropriate financing instruments, CORDIO East Africa has teamed up with The Landscapes and Livelihoods Group to do just this.

We recently conducted and published a desk-based review on sustainable financing for community-based marine management.  The review aimed to establish the key concepts, to understand the issue of sustainable financing within the context of community-based marine management, and to broadly identify the types of financing instruments that could be relevant. In this review, we revise the definition of financial sustainability to accommodate for community-based marine management, defining financial sustainability as:

The ability to secure stable and sufficient long-term financial resources, allocated in a timely manner and appropriate form, to cover the costs of community based marine management and to ensure that LMMAs and other forms of community-based marine management are managed effectively and efficiently with respect to both conservation and any other specified objectives

Creating a conservation finance solution starts with a diagnosis of the challenge and defining the needs, building into the logical flow through to response and delivery (Figure below, Meyers, et al. 2020). This holistic “systems thinking” approach accounts for the specific challenges and opportunities through an understanding of the social, political, and economic drivers (often threats) and the underlying constraints, and clarifies the key stakeholders including decision-makers and cost bearers. In this way, sustainable financing cannot be separated from the management of the marine resources but is part and parcel of the design, establishment, and implementation of effective LMMAs

Sustainable financing strategic logic illustrating the key stages of developing a conservation finance solution (Meyers et al. 2020)

Our report briefly summarises the challenges of LMMAs, identifies the types of costs of implementing LMMAs, considers who bears these costs, and asks what the finance gaps are for effective and efficient LMMA operations. Next, we further list and define with marine-context examples when available finance instruments: “tools used to mobilize, collect, manage and disburse funding” (BIOFIN, UNDP 2018). Any number of finance instruments might be possible in a given context, but it is fundamental any finance instruments chosen and developed is linked to an actual cost of the LMMA, and need to be selected and co-developed by communities themselves.

Our report (see embedded pdf-right) begins to review and assess financial instruments according to their suitability for use in locally managed marine areas in the region. Site-specific requirements must be given careful consideration because in order for LMMAs to be effective, sustainably managed, and financed, the local communities involved must accrue tangible benefits so that they are adequately supported to self-manage, monitor, and enforce sustainable fisheries practices. 47 defined finance instruments were identified, 32 of which were judged to be relevant to (ranked as having either medium or high potential suitability for LMMAs). The instruments of most interest (and which will be subsequently further investigated) are microfinancing (eco-credit) facilities, incubators, conservation trust funds, and conservation enterprises.

Private sector financing certainly is one optional avenue as businesses are beneficiaries of natural capital and their stake in the state of nature is becoming more prevalent. However, this has often been through tourism ventures, and the current Covid-19 pandemic has illustrated that management (whether for MPAs or LMMAs) completely reliant on funds from ecotourism is not resilient and such a model cannot be used as a panacea. We need to think proactively, outside the box, and in different ways.

These instruments need to incentivise behavior change of those people most dependent on natural resources, for example through the development of conservation enterprises and improvements in value chains of locally-available products. Furthermore, it is crucial to integrate innovative sustainable finance instruments into financial planning of conservation area (such as LMMA) management plans so that they can be effectively implemented and the daily operational costs are accounted for.

The next steps of this workstream involve an assessment of sustainable financing of Kenyan LMMAs and an exploration of how business and financial planning tools can be specifically adapted to support the WIO LMMA context. We are using existing guidance from Protected Areas to adapt and develop a participatory assessment methodology to understand the different costs and constraints, and to identify the opportunities. This next phase involves engagement with local stakeholders, including Beach Management Units, District-level Fisheries and Forestry Departments, and non-governmental and civil society organisations working with communities on marine management.

This report was co-led with our partner, The Landscapes and Livelihoods Group – TLLG as part of LEAP project, led by IUCN-ESARO. We welcome any feedback you may have, both on this report or on our wider conservation finance work – please get in touch with Nafeesa Esmail (