Community Marine Conservation. The start of the Locally Managed Marine Area movement in Kenya in response to the decline of fish in Kuruwitu, on the North Kenya coast.

Des Bowden
Publicado: 28 Agosto 2018
Última edición: 02 Octubre 2020
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Kuruwitu Conservation and Welfare Association(KCWA) was set up in 2003 by members of the community concerned about the degradation of their seas. Over-fishing and effects of climate change needed to be addressed before the marine ecosystem was damaged beyond repair. Fishers and concerned residents who remembered how healthy and productive the sea had been in the past felt it necessary to act before it was too late. In 2005 they took the unprecedented step of setting aside a 30-hectare Marine Protected Area (MPA). This was the first coral based Locally Managed Marine Area (LMMA) in Kenya. Twelve years on, the area has made a remarkable recovery. With fishing prohibited within the MPA, fish have grown in abundance, size and diversity. Fish catches in the area have improved,and alternative income generating enterprises have been introduced. Kuruwitu has become a model for sustainable marine conservation. The KCWA share their knowledge with other local and regional coastal communities.


África Oriente y África del Sur
Scale of implementation
Arrecifes coralinos
Bosques costeros
Ecosistemas marinos y costeros
Mar abierto
Montaña submarine / dorsal oceánica
Pradera marina
Acceso y participación en los beneficios
Actores locales
Financiación sostenible
Marco legal y normativo
Medios de vida sostenibles
Pesca y acuicultura
Poblaciones indígenas
Pérdida de la biodiversidad
Acidificación de los océanos
Aumento del nivel del mar
Cosecha insostenible, incluida la sobrepesca
Falta de acceso a financiación a largo plazo
Extracción de recursos físicos
Cambios en el contexto socio-cultural
Falta de capacidad técnica
Deficiente gobernanza y participación
Falta de seguridad alimentaria
Desempleo / pobreza
Sustainable development goals
ODS 3 - Salud y bienestar
ODS 4 - Educación de calidad
ODS 11 - Ciudades y comunidades sostenibles
ODS 12 - Producción y consumo responsables
ODS 14 - Vida submarina
Aichi targets
Meta 6: Gestión sostenible de los recursos vivos acuáticos
Meta 11: Áreas protegidas y conservadas
Meta 15: Restauración de ecosistemas y resiliencia
Meta 17: Estrategias y planes de acción para la biodiversidad
Meta 19: Intercambio de información y conocimiento
Sendai Framework
Meta 2: Reducir el número de personas afectadas a nivel global para 2030
Meta 3: Reducir las pérdidas económicas directas por desastre en relación al PIB para 2030
Meta 4: Reducir los daños de desastres a la infraestructura crítica y los trastornos a los servicios básicos como las instalaciones educativas y de salud, incluyendo el desarrollo de su resiliencia para 2030.
Meta 5: Incrementar el número de países con estrategias nacionales y locales para la reducción de riesgos para el 2020.
Meta 6: Incrementar la cooperación hacia países en desarrollo a través de apoyo adecuado y sustentable a fin de complementar sus acciones


Kilifi, Coast Province, Kenya
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Kuruwitu is mostly a subsistence-based fishing community and relies on the local marine resource for its livelihood. The increase in population meant more fishers in the area leading to overfishing. Desperation meant smaller fish were being caught often using unsustainable fishing techniques. Smaller catches led to a reduction in income to an already impoverished community who had no other skills other than fishing. The fishing grounds became unsustainable, and fishers were no longer able to feed their families leading to increased crime. One of the significant challenges was getting the majority of fishers to come together and understand that the closure would benefit them in the long term. Working towards a solution of sustainable fisheries the situation of illegal nets needed to be addressed. Funding was required to replace the nets and to initiate alternative enterprises. This was difficult with a new, unproven project. Poaching from the minority also needed to be addressed.


Improved catches benefitted the fishing community and livelihoods improved. KCWA engaged youth in non-marine based income activities and training. A women's group was set up, and a marine-based education programme was established for local children.

¿ Cómo interactúan los building blocks en la solución?

Although the set-up of an MPA is complicated and relies on many interactive factors, three main ingredients need to be present throughout - legal framework, management and community buy-in and benefit. They are all connected and need to work separately and in unison. An institutional framework with legal requirements and management procedures is necessary to create a solid foundation. For conservation to work in areas where poverty is present, there has to be a welfare component.



The development of sustainable non-fishing based initiatives has shifted dependence on subsistence fishing taking pressure off the fishing grounds. Fish stocks have improved dramatically within the LMMA, and an independent report shows a considerable increase in fish biomass and biodiversity of all marine life in the area. This has increased fish catches in the neighbouring fishing grounds improving livelihoods. Turtles and nests in the area are protected through a community compensation scheme. Communities from along the coast and from other neighbouring countries visit Kuruwitu to see our living classroom. At least 20 other similar projects have started by other coastal communities inspired by KCWA. KCWA demonstrated the importance of community involvement in natural resource management plans; a principle that has influenced a change of policy away from the state to the local communities. Kuruwitu has been chosen to pilot a co-management initiative working with various stakeholders covering an area of approximately 100 square kilometres. This is one of the first collaborative management schemes of its kind on the Kenyan coast and will set a precedent in the future.


Des bowden

Up and down the Kenyan Coast there is a remarkable upsurge in communities beginning to think differently about the marine resources they depend on. A new generation of fishers is looking for ways to responsibly manage their resources to ensure not only their own future but beyond. For generations, fisherfolk all along the Kenyan coast have been able to both put food on the table and make a subsistence living from fishing. However, there came a point where the size of fish and the numbers caught began to reduce to a point where they could no longer live this way. In a very short period, fisherfolk were facing the collapse of the only livelihood they knew. This slow-burn crisis focused attention on a closer look at the issues affecting what was, and in most cases, what wasn't being landed in their nets. ‘We never questioned how we lived. Our fathers and grandfathers were fishermen, and in our village, it was the only path we knew. When our nets began to fail, we were faced with an unknown future.' Dickson Juma, Fisherman. The main factor identified was the overpopulation in the area which led to overfishing. A community body, the Kuruwitu Conservation and Welfare Association (KCWA) was set up to ensure the community had a say in the management of the resources they depended on. With the help of strategic partners, institutional frameworks and legal structures were set up. After an in-depth consultation, in 2006 the Association voted to close off part of the lagoon area a marine protected area. The rejuvenation of fish stocks in the area was visible quickly, and the fishermen’s catches in the surrounding area began to increase. Funding support helped KCWA set up corresponding alternative income generating enterprises training fishers and their families in other vocations and creating employment taking pressure off the fragile marine environment. Fifteen years on and the trickle of visitors is a modest but steady stream who are happy to pay to snorkel within the healthy and vibrant marine protected area. In 2017, the KCWA was the proud winner of the UNDP's Equator Prize is awarded to recognise outstanding community efforts to reduce poverty through the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. Recognition for the hard work and sacrifice of the community for a larger, common goal, has been an important milestone in the project's development. 

Contribuido por

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Des Bowden United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Kuruwitu Conservation and Welfare Association, Oceans Alive Trust, Coastal Oceans Research and Development – Indian Ocean (CORDIO) East Africa, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Western Indian Marine Science Association (WIOMSA), Watamu Marine Association (WMA)