Bidii Yetu na Kazi win NETFUND Award

MUCH to Discover in Mida Creek partners, Bidii na Kazi Women Group, have been honoured by National Environment Trust Fund (NETFUND) at the NETFUND Green Innovations Award Phase IV Awarding Ceremony held on 26/2/2021. They were, among 21 nominees, recognized and awarded for our efforts in enhancing environmental sustainability and climate change mitigation and adaptation in Kenya. The medal award came with a cash award of 200,000/=

 

Bidii Yetu na Kazi participation in workshop – Women in Leadership

MUCH to Discover in Mida Creek partner, Afra Salim Baya, presented in an international panel titled “Women in Leadership.”

Bidii an Kazi women fencng plots for the nurseries

Government Minister for the Environment visits MUCH to Discover

MUCH to Discover in Mida Creek

National Government Minister for Environment Mr Keriako Tobiko visited the MUCH to Discover team, promising to gazette wetlands to prevent their destruction from human activities. He also planted mangroves with the group. The visit was covered by local media:

Documentation during reconnaissance.

Images from Mtwapa Beach Fieldwork

Wycliffe Omondi, PI of Mtwapa: Utilisation of Marine Cultural Heritage by a Multicultural Community shares images taken during his initial fieldwork at Mtwapa Beach:

Mtwapa Beach – Deserted with no activity

Mtwapa Fieldwork

Video footage from Mtwapa: Utilisation of Marine Cultural Heritage by a Multicultural Community showing the use of the beaches and how this has been impacted by COVID-19.

In August 2020 with COVID restrictions:

 

Protecting the Past- Lamu Port Project Report Published

Protecting the Past, Preserving the Future Team

 

The PPP-Future team finalised their report on the human rights implications of the Lamu Port Project in Lamu, Kenya. The report reflects on interviews and a focus groups with local communities and various  stakeholders, aimed at ascertaining the impact of the project on their everyday lives. The report highlights clear tensions between the community’s desire for employment opportunities and sustainable development in the area, and the risk that the project poses to the Marine Cultural Heritage (MCH) of Lamu, in particular its intangible MCH. Research findings also show the scarse public participation surrounding the project and a failure to engage with indigenous peoples to obtain their Free Prior and Informed Consent, as provided by international legal standards.

 

You can read the full report here

Bidii na kazi plot making and fencing

Caesar Bita and Elgidius Ichumbaki published in new collection on Maritime and Underwater Cultural Heritage

Caesar Bita (MUCH to Discver in Mida Creak) and Elgidius Ichumbki (The Kisima Project and Musicalizing MCH) have contributed chapters to a new book: Maritime and Underwater Cultural Heritage Management on the Historic and Arabian Trade Routes, Editors: Parthesius, Robert, Sharfman, Jonathan (Eds.)

Caesar’s chapter explores ‘The Role of the National Museum in MUCH Management and Regional Capacity Building: Current Research in Kenya.’

While Elgidius’ chapter looks at ‘Methodological Approaches to Researching Maritime and Underwater Cultural Heritage Along the Swahili Coast in Tanzania.’

The publication is a great exploration of themes around Underwater Cultural Heritage, congratulations Caesar and Elgidius!

You can buy the book here.

MUCH to Discover runs financial training sesions

Caesar Bita – MUCH to Discover in Mida Creek

The Mida Creek project team are making great progress in reopening after COVID restrictions. Following government relaxation of Corona restrictions, Bidii na Kazi AAL are slowly catching up. Sales from the Dhow house restaurant, canoe are picking up.

This week they ran a financial training session with Gede National Museum. Mr. Saidi Mondo, an accountant at Gede museum took the ladies through book keeping and financial management. This took place at the Dhow house.

Financial training session for the MUCH to Discover Project
Participants from MUCH to Discover meeting officials from NETFUND

New partnership – MUCH to discover in Mida Creek

Caesar Bita – MUCH to Discover in Mida Creek

Our MUCH project continues to attract greater attention. A national fundiing organization / Network called NETFUND (Environment Trust Fund (NETFUND) have expressed interest to support our project. Yesterday their officers visited Mida MUCH to explore areas we can collaborate. This is indeed great.

NETFUND is a State Corporation established by the Environmental Management and Coordination Act of 1999. Our mandate is “To facilitate research intended to further the requirements of environmental management, capacity building, environmental awards, environmental publications, scholarships and grants”. NETFUND’s vision is “Sustainable financing available for environmental management in Kenya”. Our mission is “To mobilize, manage and avail resources for; environmental awards, capacity building, research and publications, scholarships and grants.

Participants from MUCH to Discover meeting officials from NETFUND

Image of men working on a boat, Boat Mapping Cover Image, Field Work 2019

Boat Mapping – MUCH to discover in Mida Creek

Mark Lamont – MUCH to Discover in Mida Creek

 

Intertidal ‘wreck’ survey in Mida Creek

Many disused boats can be found hauled up onto the beaches of Kenya’s Indian Ocean coast. These are testimonies to the coast’s rich maritime cultural heritage, but their potential value to local communities has been largely overlooked. Although they are no longer being used for transportation, fishing, or hauling cargo, such vessels remain part of the region’s heritage and can be a diverse source of value.

MUCH to Discover in Mida Creek commissioned a survey in May 2019 to create an interactive map of the ‘wrecks’ within the creek’s inter-tidal areas. One purpose of this mapping exercise was to document the kinds of marine vessels used throughout Mida Creek’s tidal channels. Another reason for carrying out this map of disused boats was to create a record in light of ongoing purchases of such ‘abandoned’ boats for the purpose of making furniture and other objects for sale in the tourism industry. From many places along the East African coast where there is a significant tourist economy, a new taste for chairs, mirror frames, and other kinds of furnishings made from disused, beached vessels has created a market for this heritage.

 

In the shadow of the dhow

Boat building and maintenance is characteristic mark of a maritime culture (Prins 1965). The iconic ‘dhow’ is a symbol of Swahili maritime culture par excellence. Dhow building and sailing has occupied academic interests and continues to drive significant debate about the Indian Ocean world, its histories, its global connections (see Gilbert 2004; Sheriff 2010; Prins 1965; Villiers 1940). Indeed, Lamu’s Dhow Festival is testimony to the allure of these large ocean- going vessels among local peoples and foreigners alike. Yet resting in the shadows of such larger vessels are the many different kinds of smaller boats. This mapping exercise sought to draw attention to the significance of small maritime craft used for inter-tidal or inshore fisheries and transportation. It was hoped that MUCH to Discover in Mida Creek might inspire visitors to participate in the living traditions of the creek’s communities, including boat- building, taking a trip in such boats, as well as contributing to an online project of documenting ‘wrecks’ as artefacts of significant historical and cultural value.

 

Mida Creek Boat Map

Visitors to the MUCH to be Discovered at Mida Creek project will be invited to ‘see’ the maritime cultural heritage as they move around the creek and its channels. A Google Earth Project, the Mida Creek Boat Map, can serve to guide visitors around the various sites, most of which are fishing villages or landing sites.

You can access the site here.

Field activities in May 2019 led to the identification of many disused boats specifically adapted to the environment and activities found in Mida Creek.

Field activities in May 2019 led to the identification of many disused boats specifically adapted to the environment and activities found in Mida Creek.

Mida Creek’s vessels in context

Mida Creek is currently situated within three important gazetted areas: (1) Watamu National Marine Park; (2) Arabuko-Sokoke Forest; and (3) Gede National Monument. Restrictions in economic activities apply to all of these sites. The creek itself is part of a bio-sphere reserve and certain restrictions are in place on how local residents may use their natural resources.

Fisheries continue to be a significant, although threatened, resource for making a living. Small dugout canoes, mtumbwi (or dau as they are known locally) are all-purpose boats for most inter-tidal fisheries and, on occasion, for ferrying visitors to sites of special interest in the creek. The boat-building activities that took place with this project in 2019 were commissioned to build new mtumbwi that visitors can experience.


M
tumbwi – dugout canoes made from mwembe wood (mango) trees, or msufi (kapok), used extensively in the inter-tidal zones of the creek. They are propelled, or punted, through the water using poles (kafi).

Notice how this mtumbwi (dau) is propelled through the water using a punting pole (kafi). This dugout canoe is the same variety as those built by the community during the MUCH to Discover in Mida Creek project. [Photo credit: Field Activity, May 2019]

Notice how this mtumbwi (dau) is propelled through the water using a punting pole (kafi). This dugout canoe is the same variety as those built by the community during the MUCH to Discover in Mida Creek project. [Photo credit: Field Activity, May 2019]

Hori – a variation on the mtumbwi (dau) but used to move between the shore and larger vessels at anchor. Note that only one example of this was found during the survey, but presumably during the active years of the mangrove trade, these would have been numerous.

This boat at the landing by Uyombo was identified as hori, significantly wider and longer than most mtumbwi, having a morticed feature for a mast (it is called a mast thwart). This would be a likely harbour for larger, ocean-going cargo vessels, especially those involved in the trade of mangrove poles (boriti). [Photo credits – Field Activity, May 2019]

This boat at the landing by Uyombo was identified as hori, significantly wider and longer than
most mtumbwi, having a morticed feature for a mast (it is called a mast thwart). This would be a likely harbour for larger, ocean-going cargo vessels, especially those involved in the trade of mangrove poles (boriti). [Photo credits – Field Activity, May 2019]

Ngalawa – this outrigger canoe was used for littoral transportation, as well as for reaching outlying reefs for spear and net fishing. There was one ngalawa found during the survey at Uyombo. They are popular among tourists for local excursions under sail.

This ngalawa is still being used by fishermen in Uyombo. These craft are quite rare today but would have been used to sail around in lagoons, creeks, and inshore fishing zones. [Photo credit: Field Activity, May 2019]

This ngalawa is still being used by fishermen in Uyombo. These craft are quite rare today but would have been used to sail around in lagoons, creeks, and inshore fishing zones. [Photo credit: Field Activity, May 2019]

Mashua – these are the smaller of the iconic lateen sail ‘dhows’, mainly used for fishing on the ocean for pelagic fish, sharks, and snapper; and/or for transport of cargo from port to port.  Fishermen  could  live  aboard  these  craft and  they  are  used  in  coasting very long distances.

The Mavuvi 2 was built as part of a community project and now lies beached at Uyombo. A typical mashua, a vessel of this kind had many uses, including cargo haulage and pelagic fishing. [Photo credit: Field Activity, May 2019]

The Mavuvi 2 was built as part of a community project and now lies beached at Uyombo. A typical mashua, a vessel of this kind had many uses, including cargo haulage and pelagic fishing. [Photo credit: Field Activity, May 2019]

Boat-sheds

The saline and coralline environments takes a toll on wooden boats. While these vessels are mainly made from mango wood or mwembe, as well as msufi (kapok, or cotton-tree), the availability and costs of this wood has become a challenge for most craftsmen. As boat- maintenance has been changed by the availability of new materials and techniques, the

‘fibreglass revolution’ within boat-building traditions has been applied also to repairing these smaller inshore and inter-tidal craft. Most significant landing sites near villages in the creek have boat-sheds  constructed  of straight mangrove poles (boriti) and  palm-frond thatch (makuti) to provide craftsmen and their assistants with shelter and shade while they are working. The MUCH to Discover in Mida Creek ‘dhow-house’, where experimental archaeology activities will take place, is an example of this local, indigenous architecture.

Boat-house at Uyombo. Note the architectural features replicated in the MUCH to Discover at Mida Creek ‘dhow house’ [Photo Credits: Field Activity, Uyombo, May 2019]

Boat-house at Uyombo. Note the architectural features replicated in the MUCH to
Discover at Mida Creek ‘dhow house’ [Photo Credits: Field Activity, Uyombo, May 2019]

Several factors have led to the adoption of fibreglass as a new material to repair dau or mtumbwi. One of these factors is the scarcity of timber (mainly mwembe or mango wood), but the other factor is a rise of fibreglass boat-building techniques and skills. Fibreglass is rigid and strong, ideal for repairing cracked hulls, but if not prepared properly, it can also be fragile. It is also very expensive. [Photo Credit: Field Activity, Sita, May 2019]

Several factors have led to the adoption of fibreglass as a new material to repair dau or mtumbwi. One of these factors is the scarcity of timber (mainly mwembe or mango wood), but the other factor is a rise of fibreglass boat-building techniques and skills. Fibreglass is rigid and strong, ideal for repairing cracked hulls, but if not prepared properly, it can also be fragile. It is also very expensive. [Photo Credit: Field Activity, Sita, May 2019]

 

Conclusions

Until there is a wide understanding that small inter-tidal and inshore boats are of significant cultural heritage value, their looting will continue. As such boats become replaced by fibreglass vessels, some of their unique manoeuvrability and handling in sheltered, inter-tidal channels will surely be lost. Boats like mtumbwi are perfectly adapted to reach deep inside tidal mangrove channels to exploit resources only found there. Whether it is fishing or taking tourists into the mangrove, such vessels are an important, central part of the maritime cultural heritage of the creek’s communities.

By creating a map of the existing disused boats, MUCH to Discover in Mida Creek creates an opportunity for local people to document the stories of each of these boats. The hope is that an intriguing record of mtumbwi, hori, ngalawa, and the larger mashua will inspire new research and programming into Mida’s fascinating maritime traditions. Not only will an interactive map bring about a record of such boats locations, it also curates them digitally and may start a process whereby local fishermen and their owners value them for something other than the small amounts of money that collectors or looters will pay for them. A map can educate school children, as well as being a source of potential fun as they explore other aspects of the creek’s rich marine and maritime heritage. As biocultural artefacts, such boats tell an interesting story about the special adaptations and history of Mida Creek within a wider world.

 

Suggested and Further Reading:

  • Falck, W. E. (2014). Boats and Boatbuilding in T anzania (D ar-es-S alaam and Zanzibar). International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, 43(1), 162-173.
  • Gilbert, E. (2011). The dhow as cultural icon: heritage and regional identity in the western Indian Ocean. International Journal of Heritage Studies, 17(1), 62-80.
  • Gilbert, E. (2004). Dhows & the colonial economy of Zanzibar: 1860-1970. Oxford: James Currey.
  • Pollard, E., & Bita, C. (2017). Ship engravings at Kilepwa, Mida Creek, Kenya. Azania: Archaeological Research in Africa, 52(2), 173-191.
  • Prins, A. H. J. (1965). Sailing from Lamu: a study of maritime culture in Islamic East Africa.
  • Sheriff, A. (2010). Dhow Culture of the Indian Ocean: Cosmopolitanism, Commerce and Islam. Columbia University Press.
  • Villiers, A. (1940). Sons of Sinbad: An Account of Sailing with the Arabs in Their Dhows, in the Red Sea, Round the Coast of Arabia, and to Zanzibar and Tanganyika, Pearling in the Persian Gulf, and the Life of the Shipmasters and the Mariners of Kuwait. Hodder & Stoughton.
  • Weiss, E. A. (1973). Some indigenous trees and shrubs used by local fishermen on the East
  • African Coast. Economic Botany, 27(2), 174-192.
Obed demonstrates nursery making

MUCH to Discover Website Launch

Caesar Bita – MUCH to Discover in Mida Creek

MUCH to Discover in Mida Creek is a project that aims to promote community development through engagement with maritime heritage. Located in Mida Creek, in Kilifi County in Kenya, it sought to make value out of Maritime and Underwater Cultural Heritage (MUCH) by helping locals learn about its potential. By developing a number of economic generating community initiatives relating to MUCH, the project has created outstanding ‘living heritage’ activities that are generating far-reaching interest and investment among the locals. Through forest surveys in the Arabuko Sokoke forest, the project has revealed how local communities use and continue to use the natural forest and Creek for settlement and subsistence as well as maritime activities such as boat building.

Within the project, communities have been involved in maritime archaeological research and surveys; the establishment of a Mida Maritime Heritage Interpretive centre in the archaeologically significant Mida Creek; building a dhow-house and fishermen boatyard using locally traditionally available materials; as well as training in ecotourism and climate change mitigation through mangrove reforestation. Additional alternative livelihood initiatives have been developed in the creek, that will not only help local communities but also help conserve the maritime wider cultural and natural landscape.

The project has demonstrated how MUCH (Maritime and Underwater Cultural Heritage) can be used to create pathways to sustainable community development and resilience.

To begin to share their activities, the Biddi na Kazi Women’s Group at Mida Creek have worked with the Documentary Institute of East Africa to co-create an interactive website:

The website can be accessed here.

 

Mangrove field

MUCH to Discover Mangrove Reforestation

Caesar Bita – MUCH to Discover in Mida Creek

At MUCH to Discover in Mida Creek, Climate Change impact mitigation through Mangrove reforestation is now serious business! The Bidii na Kazi women group mangrove nursery is approaching 100,000 seedlings. Many thanks to the project’s partnership with KEFRI!

Mangrove planting Mangrove field Female volunteer planting Mangrove

 

Bidii an Kazi women fencng plots for the nurseries

MUCH to Discover and KEFRI Partnership

Caesar Bita – MUCH to Discover in Mida Creek

MUCH to Discover in Mida Creek has partnered with Kenya Forest Research Institute (KEFRI) in climate change mitigation in Mida Creek through mangrove reforestation. KEFRI will support Bidii na Kazi women group in mangrove reforestation and have donated 300,000 nursery pots for mangrove nursery. They will follow up the nursery supporting the women in lunches two days in a week when the women will be working the nurseries. We have started again this early to take advantage of the next rain season in April-June. When the seedlings are grown Kenya Forest Research Institute will then purchase these from the women for planting at the Creek.

Mr. Obed Shiundu of Kefri was with us at the Creek to donate the nursery pots and show the women the women how to plant the mangrove seedlings. We also have established plots for the nurseries.

 

Obed demonstrates nursery making Mr Obed demonstrates planting mangrove seedlings Bidii na kazi plot making and fencing Bidii an Kazi women fencng plots for the nurseries

 

School groups visiting Mida Creek (Field Data August, 2019)

Discovering MUCH in Mida

Wes Forsythe and Caesar Bita – MUCH to Discover in Mida Creek

Marine Cultural Heritage continues to be the focus of the Mida Creek community in Kenya, as skills are developed, put in practise and new facilities constructed to act as a hub for learning, exhibitions and cultural events. Supported by the RftD project ‘MUCH to discover in Mida’, the work takes place on a beautiful part of the Kenyan coast – between Watamu National Marine Park and Arabuko Sokoke Forest Park. The parks contain important species of plants and animals, including extensive mangroves and herds of elephant and buffalo. The idyllic natural environment belies some of the challenges facing the community in this area including poorly regulated coastal development, timber depletion, unresolved land issues, social conflict and poverty. In addition, there persists the challenge of engendering a sense of ownership in an environment where exclusionary park protection measures can seem at odds with the needs of local residents.

Map showing Mida Creek

Mida Creek

In order to reconnect and recognise ‘people in the parks’ we have taken an approach to marine cultural heritage which seeks to enhance our appreciation of the past and celebrate the present. Activities associated with this approach include a survey of current marine practise and economies, and in recent weeks a campaign of archaeological fieldwork. The intention is that these activities will inform educational work with schools and the park managers, a community-run exhibition space, the recognition and development of coastal economies and policy recommendations.

Madam Arfa Salim Baya presents on MUCH at Mida Secondary school which is located at Mida Creek (Field Data August, 2019)

Madam Arfa Salim Baya presents on MUCH at Mida Secondary school which is located at Mida Creek (Field Data August, 2019)

School groups visiting Mida Creek (Field Data August, 2019)

School groups visiting Mida Creek (Field Data August, 2019)

The archaeological survey successfully uncovered new evidence of human settlement around Mida, including sites that likely served as an outport for the famous Medieval settlement at nearby Gedi and others which demonstrated an intimate understanding of the marine environment. These included ancient landing places sited near deep water to permit vessels to anchor in proximity at all states of the tide; trading locations at the edge of major routeways into the bay or settlements overlooking channels through the mangrove that would have afforded a degree of privacy and protection.

The MUCH Survey team interviewing elders at Kisiwani (Field Data August, 2019)

The MUCH Survey team interviewing elders at Kisiwani (Field Data August, 2019)

Our visit to Arabuko Sokoke was aided by Wataa elder, Geoffrey Mashauri who as a Park botanist had both inherited and direct knowledge to pinpoint forest sites once occupied by these elusive hunters, who later acted as middlemen with Swahili traders. As the largest coastal forest in East Africa, Arabuko-Sokoke presents serious challenges to archaeological investigation. Not only is the forest dense and strewn with leaf litter, but the presence of large animals require the accompaniment of a team of fully-armed rangers (our thanks in this regard to Kenya Forest Service and Kenya Wildlife Service). Undeterred, Mr Mashauri led us deep within the forest to uncover evidence of Wataa sites spanning hundreds of years of occupation and predate the better known Swahili culture of this coast.

The MUCH Survey team inside Arabuko Sokoke Forest under KWS guard and Mr. Geoffrey Mashauri on the right (Field Data August, 2019)

The MUCH Survey team inside Arabuko Sokoke Forest under KWS guard and Mr. Geoffrey Mashauri on the right (Field Data August, 2019)

Wavy lines pottery from Waata sites in Arabuko Sokoke Forest (Field Data August, 2019)

Wavy lines pottery from Waata sites in Arabuko Sokoke Forest (Field Data August, 2019)

Geoffrey was not the only member of the local community providing advice, diplomacy and orientation on the shore. We were joined by fishermen, farmers, activists, and on one occasion a self-appointed witch doctor! The hospitality of coastal residents was magnificent, as was that of our key partners Bidii na Kazi (‘labour and effort’) women’s group, who are in the process of eagerly documenting their efforts to put MUCH training into practise through the production of honey, butterflies and baskets. Much hilarity was had as they reviewed their first forays into film-making, however it was also clear that their efforts are beginning to improve the well-being of their households. The group have successfully identified marine resources that can be converted into economic opportunities. Some of these, such as palm bushes have traditionally been a source for basketry; others provide a distinct taste of coastal life, such as the black honey made by bees browsing the mangrove forest. Our determined community partners have begun to see real returns on their efforts as their produce has successfully sold at local markets.

Bidii na Kazi women display butterfly pupa for sale. These are now being grown at Mida (Field Data August, 2019)

Bidii na Kazi women display butterfly pupa for sale. These are now being grown at Mida (Field Data August, 2019)

Over the next months we will be continuing in our efforts to establish a boat house and yard to act as a hub for education and skills as we commission the reproduction of some of the craft traditional to the creek. It will also provide exhibition space in conjunction with a café for coastal crafts and the results of our archaeological and contemporary marine cultural surveys. We will also be launching a digital platform for the collaborative documentary work undertaken with our community groups, providing a key measure of progress and means to showcase their efforts.

People rushing towards the boat as it is docked on a good day.

Sensing the Marine Environment: Everyday experiences of a fishing community

Victor Alati (University of Roehampton PhD Student)

I am conducting my fieldwork at Gazi – a fishing village located about 60 km south of Mombasa along the Kenyan coast. Gazi is one of the major fish-landing sites along the Kenyan coast. It is mostly known for its efforts in the conservation and restoration of mangrove resources. There are over 200 fishers deriving their livelihood from the sea. Fishing gears predominantly being used include: ringnets, gillnets, handlines, spearguns and basket traps.

My study aims to utilize ethnographic approaches to understand fisher’s sociocultural experiences, practices, beliefs, opinions, moralities, values, identities and way of life through identifying their sensory categories and meanings and to test these existing approaches. It will mainly rely on participant observation and interviews with fishers to produce day-by-day written, descriptive details that are part of fishers’ daily round of life.

Ringnet fishers preparing to go fishing early in the morning

Figure 1:Ringnet fishers preparing to go fishing early in the morning. Each ringnet crew comprises of about 30 fishermen.

My observations each day begin very early in the morning at the beach as fishers prepare to leave. By midday, fishers begin to return from fishing grounds with the catch. The fish are weighed and then sold to fish traders.

On a good day, ringnet fishers can land tonnes of fish. Fishers make phone calls to fish traders and community members while at sea to inform them about the good catch. Everyone in the village is overjoyed when large quantities of fish are landed. At the beach, large numbers of fish traders and community members are observed eagerly waiting for the boat to dock. Children are also seen playing at the beach. When the boats dock, people are seen rushing towards the fishers to welcome them back.

People rushing towards the boat as it is docked on a good day.

Fig. 2: People rushing towards the boat as it is docked on a good day. On this particular day, over 100 kg of fish was given out free of charge to the community members to celebrate the bumper harvest.

Since there are currently no storage facilities at the landing site, all the landed fish is sold while still fresh. “On a good day like this one, the smell of fish lingers all over the village!” says one of the fishers. “We give extra fish free of charge to community members who flock to the beach to welcome us back. Nearly every household gets a share of the catch,” he added.

On a bad day, however, few fish traders can be seen standing at the beach looking dejected. Most community members are normally not observed at the beach. Bad days frequently occur during the southeast monsoon season. “Good days occur during the northeast monsoon season, which begins this September,” another fisher says.

Fish traders are leaving the beach with empty buckets on a bad day.

Fig. 3: Fish traders are leaving the beach with empty buckets on a bad day.

Through participant observation, I expect to establish relationships with fishers based on rapport and trust. This will enable me to carry out my research more effectively. I plan to accompany some of the fishers in fishing trips from October 2019 to understand fishing experience and culture.

The people of the sea will connect you to the world more than the Island internet!

Monicah Sairo (University of Roehampton PhD Student)

Karibu Lamu Tamu’ (welcome to sweet Lamu) was the first phrase that attracted my attention as a researcher when I first landed on the historic Island. Captain Bakari had said this to me while inviting me onboard his small beautiful dhow.  ‘The sweetness of the Island is in the ocean’, said Bakari. After a lengthy chat Bakari concluded by reiterating that he and his family have depended on the sea for years. Unfortunately, my journey was only half an hour and hence, I did not get to delve further into the exciting conversation.  However, the encounter with Bakari, and the chit-chat on my way to my hotel, prepared me to confront such ‘pregnant’ statements.  As I began to understand the uses of sayings and symbols seems to be part of the everyday conversation among the Lamu people.

Monicah waiting for the captain, traditional dhow

At one point, on my way to the hotel, Captain Bakari, suggested a few things to do in the Island as a tourist but explaining to him who I was he was quick to recommend things I should do as a student and or a Nairobian who studies in London. My position and different personas were the second things that I had to grapple with, being a young woman, an outsider, a student from the UK, a Kenyan, a Maasai all these personas in one way or the other have on many occasions influenced the varied relationships. I have begun to develop. My identity as Maasai woman on the Island in most instances becomes the entry point of long candid conversations. However, most reactions mostly depended on my response to questions such as, “Which part of Kenya are you from?”, “Is this your first time in Lamu?” or “How long will you be here for?”  Although these were very common questions in my first week in the Island, I must admit that I now begin to feel part of the society. I have been invited to attend youth activities such as the Youth Dialogue Forum and the Art of Breathing Talk, among others. Through this conversations, I, have been able to develop contacts with different artists/artisan and craftspeople on the Island. Furthermore, I have been able to expand my research contacts mainly through recommendations from the different people that I meet, in different social spaces, such as eateries, museum, art and crafts studios and youth creative spaces among others.

Monicah at a youth creative space in Lamu

Having been on the Island 7 years ago, I couldn’t help noting the obvious changes around the ocean. The ocean is a constant point around which my activities circulate but also there were changes such as the use of new fiberglass boats, motorcycles, and the unavoidable sight of pollution along the beaches. The new boats and motorcycles seem to be part of the main transport around and within the Lamu Archipelago which complement, and in some areas, have replaced the traditional dhows and donkeys. Walking between some Islands such as Lamu and Shela, one is constantly forced to give way to the motorbikes, and this seems to be the trigger to chit-chats between the pedestrians. One man, riding a donkey, said to me, ‘I hate to admit that these bikes are a nuisance but a blessing to the youth, it is a source of employment’. Another pedestrian joined in the conversation and was quick to give his opinion, ‘I think they are dangerous, not many of the riders are professionally trained, and they have caused a lot of unrecorded accidents’.

One captain of a traditional dhow said to me, ‘New boats are saviours to many but sadly come with a cost…..many people have opted for these boats because of cost of making and maintaining them. However, they are not as comfortable as the traditional dhows and in addition they have contributed to pollution of the sea.’

sdr

This is just an excerpt of how my everyday life in Lamu is developing. The Lamunian are very friendly, engaging and curious people, this has made it easy for me as a researcher to search for information. However, the amount of information from everyday engagements has been overwhelming.

Needless to say, the Island’s enthralling history, intimate alleyways, deserted beaches and slow pace of life captivates travellers and this will often stir up exciting conversations.  ‘This is an insanely happy place’, said a female tourist who was ending her visit. She smiled ruefully as the boat man replied to her, “Leaving the Island is a disease, to come back is the cure’.

Participant in a focus group discussion at Pate Island indicating areas of harvesting

Field survey to understand changes in mangrove use and the implication to local community in Lamu Kenya

Amina Hamza (PhD student, Bournemouth University)

The coastal community in Kenya have strong dependence on mangrove ecosystem for their livelihood. Mangrove exploitation for building poles forms a subsistence livelihood for the locals with Lamu county exhibiting the highest dependence. Records indicate along with slave and ivory, mangrove poles made up a major regional trade by the 9th century. However, mangroves are threatened by both natural and human induces threats. In addition, Kenya has witnessed rapid development in ports and infrastructure which have had impacts on the ecosystem and the communities. The extent of these impacts on mangrove use in Kenya has not been well documented. Furthermore, the changes have had tremendous impacts on the community livelihood some of which are irreversible.

Bed made from mangrove wood, photo taken at one of the households interviewed

Bed made from mangrove wood, photo taken at one of the households interviewed

In order to understand how the use of mangrove resources has changed over time, the drivers of change and document community knowledge on climate change, I was awarded a grant by Bournemouth University’s Global Challenges Research Funds (BU’s GCRF) to conduct a field survey in Lamu, Kenya. The survey involved focus groups discussions with different mangrove users; and household interviews using semi structured questionnaires conducted in Lamu, Manda, Pate and Ndau Islands in June and July 2019. The four weeks field activity started with a meeting with the county ecosystem conservator and foresters at the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) to collect information on the amount of mangrove wood harvested in Lamu and its monetary value and identify mangrove user groups in the area. KFS is the government department that is in charge with the management of mangrove forests in Kenya.

Participant in a focus group discussion at Pate Island indicating areas of harvesting

Participant in a focus group discussion at Pate Island indicating areas of harvesting

Preliminary findings are expected to be ready in November 2019. The findings will provide information on how environmental changes have influenced livelihood dependent on mangrove and provide possible adaptation options to increase local community resilience to environmental/climate change that will be disseminated to different stakeholders. In general, the research will advance current knowledge on changes of mangrove use and natural and human induced impacts on mangrove resources that will inform policy and assist coastal communities and governments agencies in current and future mangrove management planning. The activity is contributing to the broad aim of the interdisciplinary project Rising from the Depths (RftD) funded by GCRF involving several universities in UK including Bournemouth University.