Community based conservation in the WIO


CORDIO’s approach to increasing the effectiveness of locally managed marine areas (LMMAs)

Notable CBNRM activities in 2019-2020:

CORDIO supported the election process for 7 Kenyan Beach Management Units (BMUs) – Mkunguni, Mwaembe, Munje, Mwandamo, Funzi, Bodo, and Gazi in response to communities’ concerns over legitimacy of the BMU leadership. The delay in elections was deemed a critical challenge to effective management and operation of BMU affairs. As a follow up to the elections process CORDIO in partnership with Kwale County Department of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries (Fisheries Division) and Kenya Fisheries Service held an induction and leadership training for the Executive Committee members of the 7 BMUs. This process aimed at strengthening leadership and governance structures fundamental for BMUs to deliver on their mandates. A key output from the training was the development of BMU Action Plans.

One of CORDIO’s core mandates is to facilitate knowledge and learning exchange and uptake. This is especially valuable between peers among coastal community groups implementing CBNRM activities. We held initial meetings with the 7 BMUs to bring forth insights from communities on establishing a learning network. Participants identified CBNRM activities in the seascape which could be learnt from (such as coral reef restoration, ecotourism, mangrove boardwalks) and recommended topics and potential demonstration sites (such as effective community area closures to fishing, value-addition to seaweed farming in Zanzibar) which could provide learning exchange opportunities to increase positive ecological and socio-economic impacts in the future.
To promote sustainable small-scale coastal fishing practices, CORDIO together with Mkunguni BMU and Kwale county fisheries officers brainstormed how to modify traditional basket traps to create a more ecologically sustainable fishing gear without compromising fishers’ income. Participatory deliberations led to the decision to trial basket traps with an increased mesh size – this reduces the capture of small immature fish and allows larger fish to be caught (fetching higher market prices). Modified basket traps were constructed and provided to Mkunguni BMU with a deliberate emphasis on female BMU members to manage and own a number of traps, empowering them and increasing the gender balance for equitable participation.

Building activities together: leading to learning exchanges and roadmaps

We are on a journey with BMU leaders to achieve CORDIO’s community-based marine resource management ambitions. This has involved strengthening the BMU institutional and leadership capacity to carry out their mandate, supporting activities to enable good governance, providing learning network forums, and prioritising areas and activities to be carried out and further developed – all of which culminated in the first of our exchange visit series in late October 2020. Wasini was chosen to act as a model site because its area closure exemplifies best practices and has led to tangible ecological and socio-economic outcomes. Exchange visits were aimed to support Munje, Mwaembe, and Mkunguni BMUs to help decide how, where, and specific parameters under which to establish their area closures. These 3 BMUs have been interested in establishing area closures (i.e. no fishing allowed) as a fisheries management tool in their respective co-management areas and initially implemented measures between 2014-2015. Unfortunately, numerous challenges led to their collapse and thus prompted the need to learn from another success story.

The exchange visit in Wasini took a three-phased approach consisting of 1-Pre-exchange, 2-Actual exchange, and 3-Post-exchange activities. The BMUs were sensitized on how Co-Management Areas (CMAs – generically known as LMMAs) are established. They were also sensitized on how area closures are an important fisheries management measure, which is captured in Kenyan legislation: Fisheries Management and Development Act (2016), the Revised Fisheries (BMU) regulations (in draft) and the new guidelines for establishing CMAs (in draft). Lessons on sustaining area closures, as well as the wider Co-Management Areas were shared. Participants had an opportunity to snorkel in Wasini’s established area closure with coral reef and seagrass restoration activities, and to visit the mangrove boardwalk. The hosts also highlighted livelihood activities (tourism, hotel and catering, education and awareness opportunities) and the benefits contributing to the broader community from the conservation initiatives (i.e. supporting education and community health projects). Through this exposure, Munje, Mwaembe, and Mkunguni BMUs have now been able to identify actions and activities to chart how to establish area closures for their respective jurisdictions – further building upon the momentum from our previous work in co-management area planning processes, and fisheries management activities including the promotion of sustainable fishing gears.

Future activities: moving into 2021:

The first learning exchange visit to Wasini was aimed to revive old closures or create new ones, but this is just the beginning. Subsequent learning exchanges (at least one per year) are planned to take place on various topics to be prioritized by target communities. We have also recently launched our small grants scheme to fund pilot interventions and are now accepting concept proposals. This funding will allow communities within Kanamai, Mtwapa, Munje, Mwaembe, and Mkunguni BMUs to trial and test sustainable funding initiatives that improve marine management while benefiting communities’ livelihoods.


These activities have been implemented as part of the Norad funded project, Innovating, and sharing knowledge for coastal resilience in Eastern Africa. This project is being implemented in partnership with government (national and county) institutions in charge of fisheries management in Kenya, Mwambao Coastal Community Network in Tanzania, and AMA – associação do meio ambiente in Mozambique, with activities adapted to suit and meet the needs of the local context.

We welcome any feedback you may have, on any of our community-conservation activities in Kenya mentioned above or on our wider community-based marine resource management work – please get in touch with Joan Kawaka (jkawaka@cordioea.net)