Natural resources, among them fisheries resources, are seriously threatened by human activities such as overexploitation and the use of destructive fishing gear, and as a result, their abundance is decreasing rapidly affecting the local communities who depend on them for their livelihood. In order to guarantee the availability of these resources both for the present and future generations, it is fundamental to recognize the importance of natural resource management. An effective natural resource management approach takes into account the needs of both the ecosystems and society so that people can benefit from resources without degrading them.
With the increasing population density in Kenya, specifically in coastal communities, it goes without questioning the need for integrated efforts towards sustainable resource use and management. Community participation and engagement in natural resource management has several benefits, among them, promoting local stewardship, steering local initiatives towards improving natural resource use and management and reducing resource use conflicts. Therefore, bringing local communities on board in resource management efforts is among the ways of ensuring that our resources are safeguarded because communities closely interact with these resources.
The Shimoni-Vanga seascape, located on the southernmost end of Kenya’s coastline, bordering Tanzania, is a case study of areas where communities have embraced their role in resource management. The locals in this area are at the forefront of community participation in resource management evidenced by the different community-led initiatives that have been conducted. Taking into account the dynamics of people living in coastal communities, adequate attention should be paid to capacity building.
Education and training is an effective way of overcoming some of the difficulties that inhibit community participation in resource management. Training is important as it provides the necessary knowledge and skills required to ensure effective community participation in resource management. Moreover, local resources can never be managed well, unless the users are well educated and involved in resource management. Training and mentorship on aspects such as resource management and resource mobilization are needed to improve the capacity of local communities. However, as we consider conducting more training to local communities in the future, we have to keep in mind that training that targets only a particular group of people introduces a bias in the way the community is capacitated.
The author, Jane Mwikali is a COMRED Associate. She can be reached at info(at)comred.or.ke