Shimongi-Vanga multi-stakeholder forum: putting communities at the forefront of blue economy

Shimoni, a sleepy town tucked away on Kenya’s south coast, has been thrust into the spotlight and even made news headlines as a result of the  proposed Shimoni Fishing Port Project, a subject that has sparked intense discussion and significant controversy. Shimoni is the gateway to the now widely known Shimoni-Vanga Seascape. It is an area rich in a variety of marine plants and animal species and is of great significance in the context of productive fisheries. Because of its strategic location and richness, it is very appealing for government-led and non-governmental organizations’ projects in the blue economy.

It is however the port that has been the most talked about subject with many different theories about this significant infrastructure. It was described as a smelting plant by some, a jetty by others, and even as an expansion of the Mombasa port by some. Several claims of land grabbing were made, and there was a lot of protest from various interest groups.

This is only one of the numerous concerns that exist amongst communities and stakeholders in this area. It is a perfect example of the many reasons for the establishment of the Shimoni-Vanga Multi-stakeholder Forum. This Forum provides an avenue for all interested parties to address similar concerns openly. It has been seen in different lenses by different stakeholders.

“The forum is a melting pot of ideas and representation providing an opportunity to exchange information thereby creating unity in the region to spearhead development by the people, for the people, and with the people,” Deputy County Commissioner, Lunga Lunga sub-county, Joseph Sawe.
DCC Lunga Lunga sub-county, Joseph Sawe addressing attendees of the 5th forum meeting.

The first quarterly Forum meeting this year, and the 5th since the Forum’s inception was held on 23rd February in Kiwegu at Kutoka Ardhini premises. This meeting was attended by representatives from the Shimoni-Vanga BMUs, government institutions such as the Kenya Ports Authority, Kenya Wildlife Service, County Government and NGOs including CORDIO, E.A and WWF

In this latest meeting, the Forum was honored to have a representative from the Kenya Ports Authority present. This was an excellent opportunity for the attendees to hear from the representative of the Shimoni port developer about specific details of the project and what the community stands to gain.

“The construction of the Shimoni port is an investment in the people. A 75 by 30-foot jetty, a cold storage facility, an ice plant, and a fish market are to be built during the project’s initial phase. This is being constructed on a 3.6-acre parcel of land that was formally transferred from Kenya Fisheries to Kenya Ports Authority.” Daniel Githinji, Kenya Ports Authority-Department of environment and social safeguard explained.

“The project’s viability was examined, along with a thorough evaluation of its effects on the environment, and safety precautions have been put in place.” He added.

Githinji encouraged the current stakeholders to start environmental monitoring activities to hold the agency accountable and continue implementing recommendations in the Environmental Impact Assessment report.

Daniel Githinji (Right), K.P.A. Department of environment and social safeguard giving his presentation.

Despite the fact that fishing is a significant source of income in the Shimoni-Vanga seascape, it is not always profitable for fishermen because of a variety of issues, such as a lack of ice, lack access to ready and profitable markets, and modern fish processing facilities. It was made apparent during this forum meeting that the port project aims to improve local residents’ standard of living while offering artisanal fishermen an advantage in fish processing and value addition to minimize post-harvest loss.

Direct communication with the stakeholders involved in the seascape has been facilitated by this Forum, and according to Naturecom Group director John Kareko, who was present. “This has in some ways eliminated the tedious and time-consuming processes of writing letters, scheduling appointments, or even taking it to the streets to address issues happening in the region.”

Agatha Ogada of Blue Ventures highlighted that, “the forum offers room to grasp the Kenyan law with reference to the implementation of projects. Also, this serves as a learning exchange for the BMUs as well as players present.

CORDIO, E.A., one of the many marine conservation organizations working in this area, invited members to give suggestions on eco-tourism ventures to be set up in the 7 BMUs in Shimoni-Vanga through a project they hope to start soon, living up to the forum’s vision of providing a platform for exchanging ideas and information.

Stakeholders giving their views during the meeting.

“When the forum was established in 2020, the financial model called for each forum member to support their participation in the forum activities. I am happy to see that 3 years later, people are still coming to forum meetings, an indication they see the value of this interaction.” Sighted Yvonne Muyia, Project Coordinator at REEFOLUTION.

Shadrack Zia, Kenya Wildlife Service – Corporal in his reflection on the just concluded meeting said, “I am impressed with what is happening Shimoni-Vanga. This forum is truly a one stop shop for solutions to the diverse issues we have in this area!”

The Forum was established with facilitation of COMRED, Naturecom Group, the Kenya Fisheries Service, and the County Government of Kwale, alongside other governmental, non-governmental and community stakeholders working in the seascape, with support from GEF Small Grants Program of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The key aims for establishment of the Forum were to encourage collaboration amongst stakeholders, prevent duplication of efforts, propagate a shared vision for the conservation of resources in the seascape as well as facilitate information sharing. Forum meetings are held three times annually and are open to organizations working in the seascape.

Past Forum reports can be found here.

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