Since COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, its effects have been felt in all sectors of our economy. Various lifestyles within our country have been altered following the governments directive through the ministry of health that they should stay at home for safety purposes. Local communities living along the coastal strip who depend on tourism and marine resources for their livelihoods have been affected by this unforeseen disease.
The tourism sector has been greatly affected by the cessation of movement and ban of both local and international travel. Those who depend on tourism as their main source of income like the boat operators, tour guides, hoteliers along the coast and all other stakeholders have been forced to close their business. Loss of employment due to a decline in the tourism sector has been witnessed in many places along the coast, most of the staff have been made redundant hence the high cost of living for them and their families. Hoteliers and all Community Based Organizations (CBOs) that offer ecotourism services can use this time to collect views from their customers so that they can do renovations, add other tourist attraction sites and improve on their packages and services. Ecotourism investments such as those relying on mangrove boardwalks can use this period to rebrand and attract local tourists.
A decline in the fish market has also been experienced since the coronavirus was reported in Kenya. Most of the fishermen have reported a drop in fish prices despite the availability of fish. During these difficult times of staying at home, buyers cannot afford the normal price of fish per Kilograms, fishermen are forced to sell at lower prices hence less profit. Social distancing might also affect the number of fishermen in a boat as they try to adhere to the directives set by the government further affecting their income.
Despite the pandemic changing our daily operations, it has helped greatly in reducing pollution and overreliance on marine resources. There is less pollution on our beaches. People are now appreciating the need for a clean environment and need to diversify their sources of income. Local communities should use this time to engage in various sustainable activities. They could use this season to plant drought-resistant crops, trees, beekeeping and other activities that cannot be affected by a sudden occurrence like this pandemic. Production of local items like seaweed products should also be made available to locals at affordable prices to avoid losses due to reliance on tourists to buy their products.
Most of the donors, government and NGOs have been conducting many projects with the locals on issues affecting their livelihoods and environmental conservation. Restriction of movement and gatherings has affected most of the technical skills offered by these personnel hence they should make use of capacity building knowledge to manage their resources sustainably in terms of resource mobilization and income generation locally. Since most of the people are at home, they can initiate mangrove planting and other trees that thrive well along the coast, as a preparedness measure to curb future disasters like floods that can also alter their economy and sources of income like this period of the COVID- 19 pandemic.
The author, Maryline Chebet is a COMRED Volunteer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org