Sustainable financing for community based marine management in the WIO

What is one of the biggest barriers to effective marine co-management?

Insufficient long-term sustainable financing.

Management entities are often unable to meet necessary day to day operational costs of management. At best, Locally Managed Marine Areas (LMMAs) in the region remain heavily reliant on external donors for their establishment and running. At worst, management is ineffective. As such, there is a need for an improved understanding of the costs of LMMAs, not just in terms of LMMA operations, but also any costs to local communities and other local stakeholders, in order to develop and integrate financing instruments that respond to these. CORDIO East Africa have teamed up with The Landscapes and Livelihoods Group to do just this.

Report overview and framework:

We recently conducted and published a desk-based review on sustainable financing for community-based marine management. The review aimed to summarize current thinking and approaches to sustainable financing of conservation actions, to establish key concepts, and embed this in the specific context of community-based marine management appropriate for the WIO. We revised 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

Developing conservation finance solution starts with a diagnosis of the challenge and defining the needs, and then logically flows 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 underlying constraints and aims to clarify 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)

Main areas of the review:

  • Summarises the challenges faced by 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.

  • Lists and defines, using marine-context examples, the available finance instruments, defined as “tools used to mobilize, collect, manage and disburse funding” (BIOFIN, UNDP 2018). Any number of finance instruments might relevant to a given context, but it is fundamental that any finance instruments chosen and developed is linked to an actual cost of the LMMA, and need to be selected and co-developed by the communities themselves. Furthermore, adapting management approach and type should always be an option to reduce costs themselves.

  • Identifies 47 defined finance instruments, 32 of which were estimated to be relevant to LMMAs (ranked as having either medium or high potential suitability for LMMAs). The instruments of most interest to the project team will be further investigated with communities in Kenya in the next project phase. Site-specific requirements will be given careful consideration to order to assure that instruments are suitable to local context and build on local communities existing initiatives and locational advantages.

    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 or on our wider conservation finance work – please get in touch with Nafeesa Esmail at or