Much to discover in Mida Creek: creating pathways to community resilience and sustainable development through the maritime cultural landscape in Kenya

Project Description

How can residents of Mida Creek benefit from the rich marine cultural heritage that surrounds them but that they do not ‘see’? This project picks up this challenge by bringing together marine archaeologists, women’s groups, traditional boat builders, and digital creatives to engage with a range of stakeholders whose livelihoods converge on making use of the resources in Mida Creek, Arabuko-Sokoke Forest, Gede National Park, and Watamu National Marine Park. The focus on Marine and Underwater Cultural Heritage (MUCH) as a co-designed forum tackles some of the most pressing development challenges at Mida Creek: gender inequality, deforestation, rising sea levels, depleted fisheries, and unsustainable tourism. Flagship activities include building a dhow-house to run workshops on traditional boat and canoe building, teaching important skills and values to targeted youth about the region’s rich marine cultural heritage. Working with a local women’s group, the project will train women in relating MUCH to their already existing alternative and additional livelihood (AALs) strategies based on ecotourism. The project will educate school children on organised trips to Mida Creek by developing a curriculum about what MUCH can tell us about the natural and anthropogenic drivers of ocean and climate change, as well as welcome visitors from all over the world to Mida Creek’s ‘living history’ maritime cultural heritage trail. A community-maintained digital platform that tells the story of the sea and forest in Mida Creek through a MUCH perspective willl sustain ‘deep context’ learning and generate understandings and awareness of the people’s maritime history and landscape in ways not currently realised. Maritime archaeologists will work alongside community members and other scientific researchers to carry out surveys, both within the creek’s intertidal channels and Arabuko-Sokoke forest that will more completely tell the history of Mida Creek’s mangrove forestry, its relation to transoceanic trade and the rise and fall of nearby Gede in the seventeeth century.


Location: Kenya

PI: Caesar Bita (National Museums of Kenya)

Co-Is: Wes Forsythe, Mark Lamont, Simone Grassi, Pent i Turunen

Size: Large


The MUCH to discover project was featured by the AHRC on their website, read the full article here.

MUCH Digital Platform

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:

Mida Creek Women's stories

Boat Building in Mida Creek

Basket Making in Mida Creek

Images of the MUCH to Discover Project