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Jimbo Enviromental Group benefits from alternative Income Generating Projects

Community organizations in Kenya are increasingly stepping efforts to conserve their environment after realizing the benefits accrued from conservation activities. One such organization is Jimbo Environmental Group located in Jimbo village, along the south coast of Kenya. The group, which was established with the help of Kenya Sea Turtle Conservation Committee, is well known for its conservation activities in the area, especially with respect to the endangered sea turtles. Through facilitation from KESCOM the group frequently carries out mangrove rehabilitation, beach clean-ups and patrols, sea turtle tagging and release as well as in situ turtle nest protection. Jimbo is one of the major turtle nesting sites along the Kenyan coast. Other donors are now coming in to boost conservation efforts of the group and also help the community. For instance, members of the group, now have a reason to smile after they received funds to run several eco-friendly alternative income generating projects. The funding, to the tune of approximately Ksh.26 million was given by Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe, a German NGO that provides humanitarian aid worldwide. It supports people who have fallen victim of natural disasters, war and displacement and who are not able to cope on their own in the emergency situation they find themselves in.Some of the projects being undertaken are mariculture project, mangrove reclamation, and bee keeping (in the mangrove forests). It is not just the group members who get to benefit. The entire Jimbo community now boasts of a newly constructed fish market, pit latrines, an all weather road to the village and a sea wall that is expected to be completed in November this year. The chairman of the group, Mr. Mwichambi Kai, could not hide his joy while he narrated all the benefits accruing from their efforts to conserve the environment. He further explained that now, Jimbo community has a great level of empowerment in respect to ownership and protection of their coastal and marine resources.

SPICING UP TOURISM ON FUNZI ISLAND

tagging-a-turtle.JPGtourists watch as a turtle is tagged

 

Tagging and release of turtles, as well as beach clean-ups and mangrove rehabilitation are quickly becoming activities of choice for tourists visiting Funzi Island. True to the ecotourism theme driving the IUCN-sponsored Funzi project, visitors are increasingly taking time off to participate in conservation activities planned and carried out by the Funzi Turtle Club.

Every morning, the members of the club routinely carry out beach patrols and clean-ups as they monitor turtle nests and tend to mangrove plantations. Every so often, they will be accompanied by happy-go, big-hearted and adventurous tourists who turn a trip to the island into a hands-on learning experience.

beach-cleanups.JPG  

Frances, an American university student visiting Funzi for the first time, was lost for words “The biology of sea turtles is just fascinating. These creatures are magnificent” said the ecotourism student who, apart from using the visit as a fieldwork trip for her research work, took part in various activities in the village. “I’m seeing more reason why we should do everything in our powers to ensure that they are saved from extinction”.

 

Alice and Hattie from Manchester, England took some time off their studies to volunteer at a local school in Mombasa. They had read about the turtle conservation project in Funzi, so when a friend came up with the idea to visit the island, they literary jumped at the opportunity. Their four-day stay was, in their words ‘a wonderful adventure’. On the second day of their stay, they got the enviable chance to help tag and release a turtle rescued from a fisherman’s net. “This is so cool!” exclaimed Hattie as she posed for pictures with the juvenile turtle. “My parents are not going to believe this!” They later released the turtle, which they nicknamed ‘crush’ and watched it as it swam into the calm evening waters. To wind up their visit, they watched as club members demonstrated the process of making various ‘flip flop handicrafts’, which they so thankfully carried home as souvenirs.

 

For those who wish to mingle with raw nature and enjoy (and conserve) the simple pleasures of an unspoilt environment, Funzi has become the new exotic destination.

Coastal development and sea turtle conservation: Where is the balance?

Access road blockage

To those who have visited the island, the mere mention of Funzi conjures images of an exotic island, untouched by human development and left behind in the scramble for scarce and fast diminishing natural resources. The island, boasting of a rich diversity of animal and plant life is also a nesting site and foraging ground for the endangered sea turtles, especially the Green and Hawksbill species. Over the years, hundreds of these magnificent sea creatures have left their crawl prints on the quiet beaches surrounding this sleepy island on the South Coast of Mombasa, as they come to nest, almost assured that their young ones will make it to the waters and begin the long voyage that has been replayed for centuries.

As dolphins play in the serene waters, various small animals scout the virgin forest, laid back in their lifestyle and unperturbed by the little human activity in the nearby village certain that no harm will beget them. My camera rapidly clicks away, catching sight of a young colobus monkey idly perched on a tree branch, and I realize that like many of his kin, he is totally unaware that the very tree branch he sits on may soon be turned into a piece into furniture adorning one of the many cottages rapidly being constructed on the island. My mind wanders off and I’m momentarily lost in thought, only to be startled by a terrified Dik Dik in full flight, scared by the strange sound of an approaching bulldozer. The chirping of the many birds hidden among the trees seems to have a different tune, almost revealing the looming threat from the new unwelcome neighbors.

Funzi island is home to slightly over 1000 people, who have over the years sustainably used the many natural resources for sustenance. A good number of the ‘fundis’ are fishermen, making use of traditional fishing methods to feed their families. The island is also home to two resorts, one of which mainly caters for visitors on day trips while the other, an all-inclusive establishment, caters for high-end tourists.

The planned cottages are an off-shoot of this all-inclusive resort, and thanks to this developments, the natural forest on the island, home to numerous small animals, birds and insects will have to go. What’s more, this wanton destruction is the work of one man, driven by profit and unhindered by anything else.

The senseless deforestation has especially complicated the work of sea turtle conservationists working on the island, and since all access paths to the beaches have been deliberately blocked, they have had to quietly sneak through the thickets, lest they come face to face with the dreaded and mean looking, baton-wielding Maasai guards, who are under strict instructions not to let anyone through.

Simple tasks such as beach clean-ups have turned into hide and seek games. Walking on the beaches can only be done in defiance, by those brave enough to stand up to the guards dotted all over the island – never mind the fact that according to Kenyan law, all land 60 metres from the high tide line is public. There’s more to come. The cottages are being built so close to the beach without the lighting ordinances being kept. Counsel and conscience have been thrown out of the window as financial gains and profit-making take the front seat.

Conservationists are now raising the red flag against this looming threat to wildlife. The Kenya Sea Turtle Conservation Committee (KESCOM), which runs a community-based conservation project in Funzi, sees this as a blow to the gains made over the years. According to the project officer, Douglas Maina, there is a need for future development on the island to be controlled if the ecosystem has to be conserved. “It is very important that we see the big picture and think in terms of today’s long-term impact on the environment and the wildlife that we are trying to conserve”, he added. The organization works locally with the Funzi Turtle Club, runs a IUCN Netherlands-sponsored pilot project that seeks to integrate sea turtle conservation with ecotourism. Cottage construction on the Island

Villagers are worried since the area administration is unable (or unwilling) to intervene. To see such a beautiful island being destroyed in such a callous manner is painfully worrying, and at the very least, annoying.

Douglas maina

Integrating sea turtle conservation with ecotourism

Funzi Turtle Club members receive ownership documents of a boat donated by IUCN Netherlands as part of a project ‘Integrating sea turtle conservation with ecotourism’. The boat will be used for sea patrols. The turtle conservation club also carries out other activities such as habitat rehabilitation, beach clean-ups, turtle tagging and release, hatchling release program, in-situ nest protection as well as production of handicrafts and souvenirs out of recycled material. This club is one of the 18 community Turtle Conservation Groups (TCGs) that the Kenya Sea Turtle Conservation Community (KESCOM) currently works with.

Sea turtle conservation in Kenya

Green turtle mortalityKenya Sea Turtle Conservation Committee coordinates sea turtle conservation activities in Kenya and works closely with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), Fisheries department, Kenya Marine Fisheries and Research Institute (KMFRI), Coast Development Authority, other national institutions, NGOs and other stakeholders in the conservation of sea turtles. Major threats to sea turtles in Kenya include poaching, destructive fishing methods and degradation of habitats.