As a young man growing up on the Kenyan coast, Mwangome Salim, now 52, made good money selling sea shells to tourists on Diani beach in Ukunda, Kwale County. Life was good and he made enough money to settle down and start a family.
However, life changed drastically in the late 1990s. The authorities banned the collection of shells along the beaches. This was after it was found that the collection of shells damaged the marine environment by hastening erosion and robbing tiny creatures of their homes.
Better informed about the damage their trade in shells was doing, Salim and his friends decided to change tact. They came together to guide tourists, offer boat rides, and conserve the environment. They later registered as the Diani Turtle Conservation Self-Help Group, a name that reflects the group’s efforts to rescue the sea endangered sea animal.
Ecotourism is a viable option for fishing and it can help reduce pressure on the overfished areas in the near-shore. Earning can be very good, especially on the Kenyan coast, a popular destination for local and international visitors.
But for Salim and his group, the reality has been different. The earnings from their venture are meagre and fluctuate with the seasons.
“We don’t have our own boat hire from others,” says Salim. Most of the money we get goes into paying the boat owners. At times after paying for the boat, the profit is too little to share among members.”
The group has 25 members.
Luckily for Salim and his group, help is at hand. The group successfully applied for KEMFSED’s grants for community sub-projects to enable them to buy their own boat.
“If we have a boat of our own, we will make more money and have more time to carry out conservation work,” says Salim.
Diani Conservation Self-Help Group is one of 142 common interest groups that will benefit from a total of Ksh314 million approved for community projects in the first round of KEMFSED funding under the project’s Coastal Community Empowerment and Livelihoods investments. A total of US$41.1 million has been set aside to be distributed to common interest groups over the project lifespan (2020-2025).
Besides receiving grants of between Sh3 and 5 million, the groups have been trained in leadership and financial management. This has built their internal capacity to manage projects, better positioning them to attract more investments for their business and conservation project. On February 13th, 2022, the first county launches for the grants took place in Kwale and Lamu counties. This opened the release of Sh148 million for some 48 groups in Kwale and 29 in Lamu.
The launch events were presided over by the respective governors, H.E. Issa Timamy of Lamu and Kwale’s Fatuma Achani. Elated Salim and two of his group members, Athman Mulola and Fatuma Kassim, attended the ceremony. For them, it was a new beginning, a chance to earn sustainable livelihoods while protecting the environment on which their communities depend.
Most of the grants (80%) are for productive livelihoods to support the fisher’s access to complementary livelihoods to reduce dependence on fishing in light of the declining catch due to overfishing and climate change, among other challenges.
The grants are provided to organized groups for which the project has provided technical support to implement sub-projects to complement income from fisheries, improve social welfare and protect the marine environment. These projects include income-generating (livelihood) activities, environmental conservation, and social projects as well as scholarships for students from low-income households. The beneficiaries include women’s and youth self-help groups and community-based organizations (CBOs).
KEMFSED has started county launches of the grants for community projects, with the first ceremonies taking place in Kwale and Lamu counties. The grants were launched by the respective county Governors, H.E. Fatuma Achani in Kwale and Issa Abdallah in Lamu. In Kwale 98.8 million has been awarded to the first batch of 43 groups, while 28 groups will receive funding in Lamu.
Launch of community sub-project grants in Kwale County
Launch of community sub-project grants in Lamu County
- See launch photos on Flickr: Lamu and Kwale launch sub-project grants
- Related resource: Grievance Redress Mechanism for KEMFSED sub-projects