In recent times, there has been a progressive shift towards involving local communities formally and more effectively in the management of natural resources, including protected areas, and encouraging them to manage their own resources in ways that are compatible with agreed conservation goals. This has been done through participatory approaches such as protected area outreach, community conservancies, and collaborative management.
The East African Wild Life Society Marine program has been spearheading these efforts in the south coast of Kenya through the beach management units (BMUs) and as such, in March 2011, with support from the Darwin Initiative through Fauna and Flora International, a one day workshop was organized in Shimoni in the south coast to provide a forum for open discussion on the long term vision of community conserved areas (CCAs) on both ecological and social aspects, and develop short and medium term strategies to achieve such a vision.
The workshop was aimed at identifying interests, concerns and capacities, and decide on specific marine areas that each BMU will conserve and manage through the development of co-management plans for the seven BMUs in south coast, Kenya, namely Shimoni, Wasini, Mkwiro, Kibuyuni, Majoreni, Vanga and Jimbo and brought together 49 participants with an interest in marine resource co-management including government agencies, community-based organizations (CBOs), non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and BMUs. The Workshop provided an important forum for information exchange with specific focus on the challenges and opportunities for the local community to engage in better manage their natural resources.
The local community also made presentations on the specific management areas that had earlier been mapped out, and showed willingness to co-manage these resources. The underlying principle here is that co-management is the need for resource users to understand why and how resources should be managed, and are thus more likely to stick to the rules and regulations, ensuring that the resources are used sustainably therefore achieving improvement in their livelihoods.
The objectives for the CCAs were listed as 1) to protect critical habitats and threatened species 2) to eliminate destructive fishing techniques 3) to ensure maintenance of indigenous knowledge and practices capable of conserving nature in specific local context 4) to prevent overexploitation by providing refuge areas for exploited species 5) to secure sustainable access to livelihood resources 6) to secure collective marine tenure for the communities 7) to provide undisturbed localities, populations and communities for research and education 8) to obtain financial benefits to BMUs to be done through alternative livelihood practices such as ecotourism and creating access to new markets, and 9) to improve the extractive exploitation of certain species.
In the end, it is expected that with a satisfactory management plan, the knowledge, capacity, institutions and practices of the fisher folk and coastal communities for monitoring and managing marine resources will improve both locally and regionally. This will further lead to a reduction in the degradation of coral reefs, fisheries and mangrove biodiversity in operating CCAs.