The journey of a thousand miles: Comoros-Kenya learning exchange

The Kenya-Comoros exchange learning presented an excellent opportunity for me to learn best practices in fisheries management, especially since I am a fisheries officer at COMRED. On the first day of this learning trip, we went to Mkwiro BMU, and though I am no stranger to this landscape, my eyes were opened to the strides that have been made in the marine conservation space. I was particularly impressed by Khadija, a member of the Mkwiro Eco-friendly Conservation Group, who in her articulate presentation offered us a glimpse of the past and of how society has evolved to recognize and value the role played by women in the management of marine resources.

When the Beach management Units (BMUs) were established, women were excluded from the meetings because it was perceived to be solely a men’s activity. Even when the committee started involving them, women were very few, shy and were only allowed to sit at the back and could not voice their ideas. Additionally, there never existed any formal or informal women groups at the time.” Said Khadija
Fanny ‘Effy’ Vessaz of Dahari – Comoros checking out a curtain made from old flip-flop by Mkwiro eco-friendly conservation group
Siti Mohammed and Fatima Ousseni – Dahari, Comoros pose for a photo with purses made from reeds by Mkwiro eco-friendly group

My greatest takeaway from Khadija’s story was recognizing the importance of taking the first step on a journey of a thousand miles. It’s been approximately seventeen years since BMUs were established, and these many years have seen the formation of countless women-led groups and women being elected to take office in BMUs, among other advancements.

I am currently working with 18 fisheries data collectors, 8 of whom are women. When we started this data journey 6 months ago, we struggled with a few things here and there, but we learned by doing. Our data collection was paper-based, and seeing that now we are in the process of transitioning to digital data collection, I appreciate the miles we have covered so far.

Batuli (right), Bimize (left) – Kibuyuni BMU fisheries data collectors with Eunice Ogada – COMRED fisheries officer during a monthly mentorship
Hatibu Makame, Majoreni BMU fisheries data collector Eunice Ogada – COMRED fisheries officer during a monthly mentorship

Khadija’s story is not the only thing that inspired me on this trip. I was impressed to learn that the Comorian community has been using digital fisheries data collection and has been upskilled to clean, analyze, present data to fellow community members  and draw management measures from it.

Siti Mohamed who was the lead of the comorian team indicated that,

“The exchange is a good inspiration experience for the people I am working with in Comoros through Dahari and Blue Ventures. The systems in Kenya are ahead in terms of governance and in Comoros, we have made strides in fisheries data collection and management. I believe these differences present a perfect opportunity for both  teams to learn from each other.”

I look forward to the time when we can also boast of such progress. I look forward to a future where our database has grown and our data collectors are empowered to take this bull by its horns—not simply collecting data but also taking ownership, and using it to make decisions on how to better manage fisheries resources.

Photo credits: Catherine Muyonga – Communications Officer, COMRED.

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