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Fishers haul a fishing ngalawa onto the beach at Bagamoyo before the tide ebbs (Image: L.K. Blue)

A maritime heritage paradox: aspiration and preservation on the beaches of Bagamoyo, Tanzania

Bahari Yetu, Urithi Wetu Project Team:

John P. Cooper, University of Exeter

Elgidius Ichumbaki, University of Dar Es Salaam

Lucy Blue, University of Southampton

 

The first field season of the Bahari Yetu, Urithi Wetu project is under way. Academics from the University of Dar Es Salaam, the University of Exeter, and the University of Southampton are working with fishing and boatbuilding communities around Bagamoyo to examine the stresses this heritage faces, while documenting its material and intangible manifestations. As the project progresses, the team will hold community events to celebrate this heritage and develop pathways to heritage sustainability.

Fishers haul a fishing ngalawa onto the beach at Bagamoyo before the tide ebbs (Image: L.K. Blue)

Figure 1: Fishers haul a fishing ngalawa onto the beach at Bagamoyo before the tide ebbs (Image: L.K. Blue).

The Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha has a fleeting, but transformative effect on the seascape off the Tanzanian coastal town of Bagamoyo. On any other day, a glance out to sea would reveal an industrious scene of fishers setting nets and traps, mostly in locally made wooden boats powered by sail our outboard motor, or otherwise heading out to more distant fishing grounds. On the town beach, teams of stevedores and crew would normally be noisily loading timber, vegetables or livestock bound for Zanzibar, or unloading bright yellow plastic containers of cooking oil coming from there. But on Eid morning, the scene is unusually empty, as the community prepares to celebrate with feasting and family time in community with the global Islamic ummah.

The gradual appearance of a handful of fishing boats on the water as the day progresses, however, is a sign that not all is well among the Bagamoyo fishing community. A smattering of fishing lamps on the sea after dark shows that some are working even into the night. “In the past, no one would have gone fishing on Eid,” on elder fisher tells us. “But these days, some people cannot afford to lose a single day”.

The inshore waters of Bagamoyo, as elsewhere along the Tanzanian coast, are increasing overfished, with even immature stocks being depleted. Meanwhile the human population is rising, with more fishers active, and demand for fish on the up.

Fishing in Bagamoyo is arranged around small crews operating small, privately owned, wooden boats. The large majority of craft are striking sailing dugouts fitted with outriggers, called ngalawa, used for line and net fishing, with a smaller number of stout mtumbwi dugouts powered by outboard engines for setting traps and nets. A smaller fleet of larger plank-built vessels, up to 11m long, are also powered by outboard engine: recent innovations, they pursue sein netting by day or night. Other similar-sized plank-built daw still use sail.

A range of fishing vessels—mtumbwe (front), ngwanda (rear left) and mtando (rear right)—moored on the waterfront at Mlingotini (Image: J.P. Cooper)

Figure 2: A range of fishing vessels—mtumbwe (front), ngwanda (rear left) and mtando (rear right)—moored on the waterfront at Mlingotini (Image: J.P. Cooper).

“You won’t find a single person in this town who would prefer to keep the sail if he was offered an engine,” says one fisher. With coastal waters overfished, the need of communities dependent on fishing to go further and faster in pursuit of fish trumps any sentimental attachment to sailing craft as ‘heritage’ objects. This does not mean that people are not aware of the historic importance of their craft. “I would like to see research conducted into the origins of the ngalawa and its connections across the Indian Ocean,” one fisher tells us. Yet owners of the sailing ngalawa struggle to make a living for their families, and builders of larger plank vessels complain of the soaring cost of timber.

Bagamoyo is a historic town. Its role as entrepôt of the East African slave trade and capital of the short-lived German East Africa has left a series of historic buildings. Tourists come from near and far to see these—but few miss the beach and its maritime bustle, and most rate it as a highlight of their visit. Polling by University of Dar Es Salaam heritage management undergraduate students as part of the Bahari Yetu, Urithi Wetu project is beginning to reveal the prominent role that traditional boats, especially those with sails, play in the tourist experience of the Bagamoyo. Yet the relationship between tourists—especially those pointing cameras uninvited—and porters, fishers and boatbuilders on the beach is not always a comfortable one. Work clearly needs to be done to improve mutual understanding and beach etiquette.

Members of the Bahari Yetu, Urithi Wetu project team, together with fishers, boat-builders and spiritual practitioners, at a project co-creation event aimed at identifying the key issues faced by the community (Image: unknown photographer)

Figure 3: Members of the Bahari Yetu, Urithi Wetu project team, together with fishers, boat-builders and spiritual practitioners, at a project co-creation event aimed at identifying the key issues faced by the community (Image: unknown photographer).

The more fundamental issue, however, is the disconnect between the ailing economic health of traditional maritime activities for the Bagamoyo community, and its value to that community, and its visitors, as a globally important cultural and heritage asset. The wooden sailing boats and their attendant cultural practices have to weather an economic storm of overfishing and rising material costs: if not, they could disappear at a rapid rate as technological alternatives come to market and accelerate a fishing-technology ‘arms race’. If that happens, they would take with them a wealth of material, spiritual, cognitive and linguistic heritage. Preventing that loss cannot entail forbidding fishers and sailors from seeking prosperity through changing practices. But the solution might be through finding new ways to deploy and valorise this heritage—even on a smaller scale.

Preserving the Maritime Cultural Heritage on Pemba Island, Tanzania – Women’s work

East Pemba Maritime Heritage Project Team:

Mark Horton, Royal Agricultural University

Eréndira Quintana Morales, Northern Illinois University

Shadia Taha, University of Cambridge

Abdallah Khamis Ali, Zanzibar Heritage Foundation.

Abdallah Mkumbukwa, State University of Zanzibar

Laura Basell, University of Leicester

 

Women’s work

The role of women in this economy is particularly interesting. In the past, with the men taking all the fish and selling it, the women and their families had to rely on their own food supply. This mostly involved agriculture, rice paddy, where the terrain supported this, or millets in the drier coral lands, together with bananas, citrus fruit and coconuts. Zebu cattle grazed on the harvested rice fields. An important source of protein was shell fish, with large groups of women going out at low spring tides (every two weeks) to collect them.

A typical rural scene behind the fishing towns. The rice is being harvested by women, while cattle graze on the stalks left behind.

A typical rural scene behind the fishing towns. The rice is being harvested by women, while cattle graze on the stalks left behind.

This familiarity with the inter-tidal zone was useful for the women to exploit another cash rich resource – seaweed. Seaweed (Swahili: mwani) farming is a relatively recent phenomenon in East Africa, dating from 1988. Processed for lotions, cosmetics and even toothpaste, it is a major export for Zanzibar and around 80% comes from Pemba island, especially in the north east where the shallow lagoon environment is ideal. The seaweed (Eucheuma denticulatum and Kappaphycus alvaresii) is planted in small plots and is harvested 6 weeks later, where it is then carried ashore and dried. The dried seaweed is then sold for cash per kilo, to an agent. The women benefit and can be financially independent of their husbands. With the success of seaweed farming it seems that shellfish collection has declined – or has become more a social event. There have been reports that the price the women get has declined, and that the seaweed has to be planted at greater depths, as a result of the warming of the ocean. One result has been the use of light weight plastic boats to provide access to deeper water.

Seaweed being laid out to dry on the beach at Tumbe

Seaweed being laid out to dry on the beach at Tumbe. In the foreground can be seen a light plastic boat, supplied by the agents, to help facilitate harvesting in deeper waters.

So where do all the fish go? It seems that the maritime societies of Pemba island both in the past and the present are successful entrepreneurs, who realised that fish are more valuable as cash resource to be sold, in the past to the Arab plantations, and in the present to the beach hotels; meat and shell fish were the preferred everyday protein source. This is a hypothesis at least, that we are now testing at the household level and by future excavations on some of the ‘living’ towns.

Preserving the Maritime Cultural Heritage on Pemba Island, Tanzania – The technologies are changing

East Pemba Maritime Heritage Project Team:

Mark Horton, Royal Agricultural University

Eréndira Quintana Morales, Northern Illinois University

Shadia Taha, University of Cambridge

Abdallah Khamis Ali, Zanzibar Heritage Foundation.

Abdallah Mkumbukwa, State University of Zanzibar

Laura Basell, University of Leicester

 

The technologies are changing

Fishers need boats, and one of our observations was that traditional dug-out catamarans (known as ngalawa), wooden dhows (mashua) are being replaced by fibreglass boats with outboards engines. Modern fibreglass boats have the advantage of being less dependent on the winds, but of course require expensive fuel to operate and are more difficult to repair.

 

Fibreglass boats are increasingly replacing traditional wooden boats for fishing.

Fibreglass boats are increasingly replacing traditional wooden boats for fishing.

We were told that the fisheries ministry issued new boats to fishers a few years back in an attempt to increase catches, but within a short time, they had been abandoned, as the engines and the boats themselves fell apart. It was a relief to see that traditional boat building continues along much of the north east coast. For example, on the beach at Likoni, opposite to Kojani island, we observed four enormous hulls, from dug-out Mango trees in the course of construction. The people of Kojani are especially well known as traditional boat-builders.

Project Investigator Abdallah Khamis interviewing Kojani boatbuilders as they construct a dug-out from a mango tree truck.

Project Investigator Abdallah Khamis interviewing Kojani boatbuilders as they construct a dug-out from a mango tree truck.

The government fish market at Tumbe, north-east Pemba

Preserving the Maritime Cultural Heritage on Pemba Island, Tanzania – Where do the fish go?

East Pemba Maritime Heritage Project team:

Mark Horton, Royal Agricultural University

Eréndira Quintana Morales, Northern Illinois University

Shadia Taha, University of Cambridge

Abdallah Khamis Ali, Zanzibar Heritage Foundation.

Abdallah Mkumbukwa, State University of Zanzibar

Laura Basell, University of Leicester

 

Where do the fish go?

Our ethnographic research perhaps helps in solving this riddle. In the south-east monsoon season, there were two main harbours where the fish was landed, Tumbe and Shumba Mjini and where we spent a lot of time recording interviews from the fishers. Both have fish markets; Tumbe is an impressive government building.

The government fish market at Tumbe, north-east Pemba

The government fish market at Tumbe, north-east Pemba.

There is considerable tension between the traditional fishers, who use lines and traps, and the more modern ‘ring-net’ fishers, who are seen as overfishing and reducing the catches for traditional fishers. The fish is generally landed around midday, and is auctioned for cash, to agents and wholesalers. We talked to several women who bought the smaller fish, and then resell at road-side markets. However, the larger fish were bought by the hotels and restaurants – mostly on Unguja island, as there were few on Pemba. We also learnt that many of the fishers could be away for months at a time, fishing on the mainland coast, as far away as Kenya, where they were able to sell the fish directly to the many hotels there. The Kojani fishers are well known as purse-seine net fishers, who travel huge distances, and are reported to illegally enter marine protected areas from Mafia to Malindi.

An informal transaction for a local hotel (left); preparing the latest catch for sale (right).

An informal transaction for a local hotel (left); preparing the latest catch for sale (right). The fish is normally auctioned in bundles that can include several species of fish.

It seems that many of the fish caught do not get to the villages where the fishers come from, but instead generate cash for the fishing families to invest in new houses, mosques or boats. At Kojani for example there is a ‘new Kojani’, where the old houses are being replaced by modern dwelling built of coral and concrete blocks. Many of the old mosques are being torn down to be replaced by large concrete buildings, and unusually the work is being funded locally.

A new mosque being built over the destroyed 18th century mosque at Wingwi

A new mosque being built over the destroyed 18th century mosque at Wingwi. The original building was one of the of the most attractive in East Africa and described as ‘having the proportions of a Greek temple’.

Chinese bowl set into the mosque’s mihrab at Kichokochtwe

Preserving the Maritime Cultural Heritage on Pemba Island, Tanzania – Kichokochtwe – a typical site?

East Pemba Maritime Heritage Project team:

Mark Horton, Royal Agricultural University

Eréndira Quintana Morales, Northern Illinois University

Shadia Taha, University of Cambridge

Abdallah Khamis Ali, Zanzibar Heritage Foundation.

Abdallah Mkumbukwa, State University of Zanzibar

Laura Basell, University of Leicester

 

Kichokochtwe – a typical site?

Kichokochtwe, located on a tidal islet, covers around 5 ha, with a shoreline on three sides. The occupation located across a series of low hills, visible as pottery scatters and a grey soil. A coral-stone mosque with a mihrab adorned with the Chinese blue-and-white bowl (probably Kang-shi) of the early 18th century is located at the highest point of the islet and a small cemetery of stone tombs is just outside the settlement to the east.

Chinese bowl set into the mosque’s mihrab at Kichokochtwe

Chinese bowl set into the mosque’s mihrab at Kichokochtwe and showing that even these small fishing villages were still connected into the Indian Ocean trading networks.

The economic data from the test pits we excavated was particularly revealing. There were enormous quantities of shells and bones mixed in with the ceramics, and carbonised seeds (which still have to be analysed). The shell assemblage is dominated by Strombus gibberulus, which is found along the intertidal littoral that surrounds the site, and which is still collected nowadays. 14 other species were also found, including the African land snail, Achitina fulica. The quantities of shellfish suggest that this was a pretty common staple in the diet, and not just an occasional famine food.

Graph Showing Counts of shell fish recorded at Kichokochtwe from two test pits

Counts of shell fish recorded at Kichokochtwe from two test pits. 14 of the 21 species of shell recorded from our excavations in East Pemba occur here, but the assemblage is dominated by Strombus gibberulus (right) a small conch shell, collected from the intertidal flats.

The bones were also of interest in reconstructing the economy. This was dominated by cattle bones, with a few sheep goat, and very rare chicken. But the big surprise was the almost complete absence of fish bones – despite every attempt to ensure that we were recovering material from fine mesh sieves, and wet-sieving large samples of deposit. The villagers of Kichokochtwe were not eating much fish, and this was a pattern found at all the other sites as well.

Large quantities of cow bones

Large quantities of cow bones were found with the shell fish, but very few fish bones.

Drone image of the ruined 18th century mosque at Mandani (July 2019).

Preserving the Maritime Cultural Heritage on Pemba Island, Tanzania – The Thirteen Maritime Towns of East Pemba

East Pemba Maritime Heritage Project Team:

Mark Horton, Royal Agricultural University

Eréndira Quintana Morales, Northern Illinois University

Shadia Taha, University of Cambridge

Abdallah Khamis Ali, Zanzibar Heritage Foundation.

Abdallah Mkumbukwa, State University of Zanzibar

Laura Basell, University of Leicester

 

The Thirteen Maritime Towns of East Pemba

Thirteen fishing settlements, or towns (Swahili mjini) are located in north-east Pemba. The two monsoons (south-east from July to November; north-west from December to March) provide for two distinct fishing grounds of lagoons and inlets protected by the fringing reef and coral islands. This seasonal pattern explains why several towns are located a little inland – but equidistant from both shorelines. Some indication of the time depth of these settlements can be gauged from their mosques, with inset Chinese bowls in the mihrabs – although tragically several have been torn down recently to be replaced by larger concrete edifices. However, there is strong likelihood that they all date to the 18th century if not earlier.

The rare surviving mihrab from the mosque at Shumba, dating to the 18th century

The rare surviving mihrab from the mosque at Shumba, dating to the 18th century, with Chinese bowls inset into the architrave. The other four historic mosques in the area have been torn down and replaced by modern concrete buildings. 

Seven of these towns (Tumbe, Micheweni, Shumba, Wingwi, Maziwa Ngombe, Kiyiu and Kojani) still survive as thriving settlements following the traditional economy that seems little changed since the 18th century. Our project has been able to interview the fishers (normally all men), as well as the women, the agents, middlemen and women, as well as government officials who attempt to regulate their activities. But an extra dimension is that a further six former towns, abandoned in the 19th century, provide an archaeological opportunity to record what these settlements were like in earlier centuries.

Project investigators Omar Haji and Eréndira Quintana Morales interviewing boat builders and fishers at Tumbe

Project investigators Omar Haji and Eréndira Quintana Morales interviewing boat builders and fishers at Tumbe

Today fishing is mostly undertaken from three harbours, Tumbe, Shumba Mjini and Kojani, where there is good access to the sea. Government constructed fish markets have also tended to concentrate activities in these areas enabling the catch to be readily sold. But informal fishing was also undertaken, often in dug-out canoes, where there is a beach or harbour, to supply food at a household level.

Dugout canoes in an informal harbour, on the beach near Tumbe

Dugout canoes in an informal harbour, on the beach near Tumbe. The boat in the fore- ground is being scorched to kill marine boring insects.

The abandoned towns present their own challenges. They were first listed in the 1930’s by a district education officer who, on his days off, went searching for ruins. We relocated the sites in the 1980’s now much more ruined and covered in thick bush. With expanding populations, this has now been cleared away and the sites are now extensively farmed, allowing us to map them in detail, to collect surface pottery, and dig test pits. The Department of Antiquities has made a major effort to conserve the ruined mosques and tombs and several have part time guards to protect the sites.

Drone image of the ruined 18th century mosque at Mandani (July 2019).

Drone image of the ruined 18th century mosque at Mandani (July 2019).

In July, we mapped six sites, Kichokotchwe, Mandani, Kiungoni, Chambani Mjini, Tumbe / Chwaka and Shengejuu, excavated test pits and made surface collections. All the sites lie close to the seashore, with accessible harbours, and cover around 4-5 ha. Each had a mosque and stone tombs. Chronological range could be judged from the ceramics – that included post-Ming dynasty Chinese export blue and white pottery, and at the final phase European Maastrict painted wares of c. 1850. Why they were abandoned at this time is unclear but may be linked with the economic dislocations linked to plantation slavery and the decline of the Mazruis.

The Kichokochtwe site

The Kichokochtwe site, showing its location with fringing inter-tidal flats, facing out onto the sound between the main island and Kojani island.  

 

Tomorrow we will be looking further into the Kichokochtwe site.

Preserving the Maritime Cultural Heritage on Pemba Island, Tanzania – Part 1

East Pemba Maritime Heritage Project Team:

Mark Horton, Royal Agricultural University

Eréndira Quintana Morales, Northern Illinois University

Shadia Taha, University of Cambridge

Abdallah Khamis Ali, Zanzibar Heritage Foundation.

Abdallah Mkumbukwa, State University of Zanzibar

Laura Basell, University of Leicester

 

In a year-long project from the Rising from the Depths Network, a collaboration between Zanzibar Heritage Foundation, State University of Zanzibar, the Royal Agricultural University and the University of Leicester investigates the maritime heritage of Pemba island.  

Bringing the catch in; Tumbe fishing village Pemba island, Tanzania (July 2019).

Surviving in north-east Pemba is a maritime way of life that apparently has changed little in the last 300 years. Using traditional fishing methods and boats enable the fragile reef and marine environments to be exploited in a sustainable way. The daily rhythm brings in the catch for sale at midday for sale on the beach, while the women go out in search of shell fish that can be collected in the inter-tidal zone. Behind the villages the rice fields provide the carbohydrates, the cattle graze on the harvested grasses, while shade is provided by the coconuts, mango, banana and citrus trees. But it is not all as it seems, and the East Pemba Maritime Heritage project has been investigating how modern fishing methods are now threatening not just the maritime heritage but also the sustainability of marine environment.

Pemba – the green island of the western Indian Ocean

Pemba island is the sister island to Zanzibar and was known to the medieval Arabs as the Green Island or Jazirat al-Khadra on account of its verdant fertility. Pemba became famous for its spices, especially cloves, grown on slave-operated plantations from the 19th century. These plantations introduced a new population to the island (Arab landowners and their slaves from the interior of Africa) and cleared much of the centre and south of Pemba of its coastal forest. The original inhabitants, Swahili people who were the descendants of the medieval port cities, were confined to the coast, and in the 16th century moved to northern and eastern regions, where they could grow rice in stream-fed valleys and fish in the sheltered lagoons and estuaries.  Here they abandoned their former activity as Indian ocean merchants, and instead created a food-producing maritime economy that produced such surpluses that it was able to feed much of the mainland coast and plantations that were being established during the 18th and 19th centuries – these activities accrued much wealth for the new towns’ inhabitants.  This economy linked the production of grains, such as rice and millet, extensive dairy herds of cattle, the exploitation of fish and of shellfish. One of the towns is still known as Maziwa Ngombe – ‘the milk of the cow’, because we were told there was so much milk, that is was literally poured away into the earth!

Location of research area and towns on north east Pemba island.

Since the 19th century, north-east Pemba has been neglected. It was the capital of the Mazrui who built a fort and tombs at Tumbe, but they were defeated by the Busaidi rulers of Zanzibar in 1822. With the new plantations in the south, the inhabitants of the north east, especially in the Micheweni peninsula, were allowed to continue their way of life, with little colonial or indeed British interference.  The East Pemba Maritime Heritage project, as part of the Rising from the Depths Network, is looking at this neglected part of the Zanzibar archipelago, where there is little supervision or control of the maritime activities by government officials, and where the Swahili towns still rely on the sea for their survival. We are working as a collaborative team of Zanzibari and international scholars. Our approach is both contemporary and historical – to record through observation and interviews what is the current situation, the challenges of the future, and to delve into the past, though interviews, archival study and archaeological surveys.

 

Discussing (Marine) Cultural Heritage at a Development Studies Conference

Rosalie Hans, Making Maritime Museums Matter in Mozambique

The annual Development Studies Association (DSA) conference took place in Milton Keynes this year from 19 to 21 June and as a novice to a conference in this discipline I was excited to find out how it would differ from the heritage and museum studies gatherings I’m used to (spoiler alert, it wasn’t so different). However, the fact that, as a heritage professional, it was the first time going to a conference in development studies surely indicates the need for merging these fields more often to discuss the multiple challenges of maritime heritage and development that Rising from the Depths also addresses.

The panel that brought me to Milton Keynes was called ‘History and Development: Practicing the Past in Pursuit of ‘Progress’’ and fell squarely into the cultural heritage and sustainable development theme that has become increasingly topical over the past few years. Conveners Charlotte Cross and John Giblin represented both sides of the discussion respectively as a Lecturer in International Development at the Open University and as Keeper of World Cultures at the National Museums of Scotland and introduced the topic from their areas of expertise. Dr John Giblin started with the uses of post-conflict heritage in northern Uganda and the meanings of memory while Dr Charlotte Cross talked about the invocation of tradition by local vigilante groups in Tanzania. Then Dr Ioanna Katapidi, of the Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage, presented on an international research project that looked at how and what UNESCO world heritage sites can contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s). Using case studies from Jordan and China, she highlighted some of the challenges of translating the potential of world heritage sites into practical action contributing towards the SDG’s. Following this, Dr Mark Lamont, who is currently a co-investigator on a RftD-funded project in Mida Creek, Kenya, raised some useful questions on the expected value derived from cultural heritage projects in a development environment, particularly related to GCRF funding in the UK. His point on whether the visibility afforded through digital humanities technologies, such as those promoted by RftD, really put the control over scholarship and knowledge in the hands of UK academia is especially relevant for Rising from the Depths.

In the afternoon, I presented on ‘the promise of the museum’, using RftD research in Mozambique as one of my case studies. The Museu das Pescas, or Fisheries Museum, in Maputo provides an excellent example of a museum that was constructed as part of a larger development project to add a cultural component to an otherwise economically focused programme. My argument that there is a danger of reducing museums (and cultural heritage in general) to an ill-defined resource that does not live up to its expectations resonated well with the overall theme of the panel. I proposed that to live up to their promise, the expectations of museum benefits should be changed to aims that they can deliver, such as social and cultural visibility, political recognition and promotion of local cultural appreciation. After this, we stayed in east Africa with Dr Lotte Hughes presenting her research on alternative rites of passage (ARP) that aim to replace FGM practices in Kenya. These ceremonies include a range of activities drawn from different sources of inspiration such as Christian religion and international development discourse leading to hybridised cultural performances. A presentation recorded in Zimbabwe by Kemist Shumba informed us on a research plan for looking at the use of traditional games and song in promoting health and well-being. His presence via Skype was greatly appreciated but also a stark reminder of the difficulty of African academics and professionals to receive visas for the UK which affected three other papers scheduled for this panel. It was a shame that these presenters could not share their research with those able to attend. Rounding off the panel for the day was Camila dos Santos who presented on Brazil’s development engagement with Angola and the ‘renegotiation of its position to modernity’ by engaging with Brazil’s and Angola’s shared (but not the same) colonial pasts. The article she wrote with Maira S. Gomes on this multifaceted topic came out in 2019 and can be found here: https://pucrj.academia.edu/CSantos. Last but not least, Dr Astrid Jamar shared some pictures which give an impression of the panel on Twitter which can be found here: https://twitter.com/astrid_jamar/status/1141717027331223554

During the panel I felt ‘like a fish in water’ (excuse the Dutchism) among colleagues concerned with the same challenges surrounding heritage and development, but the keynotes and other panels of the conference were extremely interesting and inspiring as well. It was a privilege to attend the keynote by Professor Mahmood Mamdani who gave a broad overview of the history of the structures of power that underpin the nation-state, colonial ideology and the prosecution of minorities. A second, and equally inspiring, keynote was delivered by Dr Robtel Neajai Pailey, entitled ‘De-Centering the ‘White Gaze’ of Development’ which was an important call to address race as the elephant in the room in development studies. She combined critical race theory and critical development studies in order to ‘mainstream race, like gender and class, as the way forward’ because as she argued powerfully ‘to oppose racism one must notice race’. I would urge any heritage specialists working in development contexts to explore development theories, to attend conferences such as these and to inform themselves on key themes current in development studies. Looking at development through a (marine) cultural heritage lens can offer new perspectives on thinking about how past-making (heritage) influences future-making (development) (see Basu & Modest’s introduction to their edited volume ‘Museums, Heritage and Development, 2015). Nevertheless, development studies also has a lot to offer to heritage studies when it comes to critically appraising development contexts and thinking through the social, economic, cultural and environmental implications of development interventions. This conference was an enriching experience and just like Rising from the Depths, the panel was a step towards bringing different disciplines together to think about the uses and relevance of the past for creating sustainable futures. The edited volume that is planned as an outcome of this panel will hopefully contribute to furthering the dialogue on cultural heritage and sustainable development as well.

The controversy of the Lamu Coal Power Station, Kenya

Wycliffe Omondi 

The scramble for Africa’s abundant, unexploited minerals and natural resources has of late invited a new scramble by powers from within and without the continent. These new trends, especially along the coast of East Africa, are closely linked with oil and gas prospecting industries, major seaports’ and road network constructions which are stipulated to bring development to East Africa and Kenya in particular. However, more often such development projects may also be potential threats to the rich marine cultural heritage if not well planned.

Ever since I started working in the heritage sector I have always been fascinated by the antagonistic relationships between cultural heritage conservation and development. Coincidentally, I am currently a PhD candidate at the University of Nottingham where my research focuses on the critical examination and analysis of cultural heritage conservation as a driver for local community sustainable development with specific reference sites along the Kenya coast.

One area that has of late attracted major infrastructural development in Kenya is Lamu archipelago located on the northern coast of Kenya. The area has been earmarked as the convergence point for a US$29.2 billion Lapsset (Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia Transport) Corridor program by the Government of Kenya (GoK). The archipelago is a system of six inhabited islands that are closely interconnected not only with the Islands but also with the surrounding environment including the mainland, in terms of fishing grounds, culture, family ties, mangrove forests and farmlands.

The Lapsset program has several components including the development of a seaport with 32 deep sea berths at Manda Bay (three berths are currently under construction), a standard gauge railway line to Juba and Addis Ababa, a road network, oil pipelines to and from South Sudan and Ethiopia, an oil refinery, three international airports and three resort cities at Lamu, Isiolo and Lake Turkana shores corridor. This program is part of the Government of Kenya’s national development strategy Vision 2030 economic pillar which aims at transforming Kenya into an industrialized middle income country providing a high quality of life to all its citizens by 2030 in a “clean and secure environment.”

Controversially, a coal power plant, Lamu Coal Power Station (LCPS), is to be developed in order to operate as part of Lapsset. Alongside the development of Lamu Port, resorts and the oil pipelines this power station is envisaged as one of the key catalysts in the development of Lamu. It must be built to provide electricity to make the development and subsequent habitation possible.

Coal Development site in Lamu Kenya

The proposed LCPS is located on the mainland near Lamu Island’s Old Town – a Unesco World Heritage site. The Old Town is considered one of the oldest and best preserved living Swahili towns whose golden age is believed to have been the period between 17th century and 19th century under Omani control. Inscription of Lamu Old Town into Unesco’s World Heritage List in 2001 was due to its architecture and urban structures that reveal the interaction of cultural influences of Africa, Asia and Europe over centuries to produce a distinctive Swahili culture. In addition it is considered a significant centre for the study of Islamic and Swahili cultures. A traditional function it has retained for centuries up to date.

Coast of Lamu Kenya

Due to the fragile nature of Lamu’s environment and culture, concerns were raised by local community members and NGOs’ such as Save LamuNatural Justice and Katiba Institute on the potential irreversible changes on the delicate natural environment and rapid disruption of the towns cultural traditions which forms an integral part of Lamu identity.

Despite local opposition to the coal power plant, the Government of Kenya awarded Amu Power Company (APC) the development rights in September 2014 (deal valued at approximately US$2 billion). APC is a consortium of Centum Investments Company Limited (a Kenyan private equity firm), Gulf Energy (a Kenyan energy generating company) and Sichuan Electric Power Design and Consulting Company Limited (SEDC) which is a subsidiary of Power Construction Corporation of China (Power China). Subsequently in mid- 2017, a 25 year Power purchase agreement between Lamu Coal Power Station with the investor Amu power, was singed in China witnessed by the President of Kenya, with guarantee from African Development Bank, even though the project is a private investment. “The President’s presence at the signing was likely arranged by the promoters of the project to shore up support for it,” according to David Ndii (2017), a Kenyan Daily Nation Newspaper columnist. However, the construction has repeatedly been halted due to opposition by environmentalists and human rights groups, for the plant will lead to air pollution, destruction of mangroves and breeding grounds for endangered species of marine turtles, fish and other marine life. The latest suspension of the project is a decision made in 2018 by a Kenyan court, sending the dispute back to National Environment Tribunal.

Obviously Kenya does not need to buy wind or solar along the coast of Kenya.  According to World Economic Forum Report 2018, wind has no clean-up costs either. It stands to reason then, that the wind plant beats coal hands down on cost and efficiency. For the case of LCPS, coal will have to be purchased and ferried all the way from South Africa to Lamu, hence incurring additional cost.

Last week, more intrigue emerged about the coal plant, after Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), a US based philanthropic research and analyses organization that focuses on financial and economic issues related to energy and the environment, revealed in its report entitled, The Proposed Lamu Coal Plant: The Wrong Choice for Kenya,’ argues that even if the plant never generates any power Kenya will still have to pay heavily for generated electricity.  “That the Coal project true costs during the years 2024 through 2037 could average as high as US$22 to US$75  per KWh.” That is three to 10 times the company’s initial 2014 projection. IEEFA, also admits that the planned 981MW Lamu coal plant is outright a poor investment—“except for the few companies backing the proposal and the Chinese firm contracted to build it.”  Therefore “Kenya should cancel the project.”

Kenya has also pledged in several international platforms to move the country to 100% renewable energy – the coal plant is surely the antithesis of this aim.

On the 24th June the National Environment Tribunal (NET)  in Nairobi revoked a permit issued for the contentious project. They cancelled an environmental impact assessment licence for the Lamu coal project, ruling that “the circumstances under which it was issued were flawed.”

However, will this judgement stand?

Will there be an appeal?

This happened in a previous court case between Lapsset and Lamu community members in April 2018  where despite the fact that the High Court of Kenya declared that the construction of the Lamu Port failed basic constitutional and legal requirements (including violations of legal procedure on public participation, the right to information, the right to a clean and healthy environment and right to culture) and the government should pay US $17Million in compensation to 4,600 fishermen in Lamu County,  the Kenya Ports Authority nonetheless filed a Notice of Appeal on the grounds that, “the judges of the lower court gave orders which had not been pleaded” and successfully obtained orders from the Court of Appeal suspending the implementation of the judgment. Consequently, despite the judgment, the Lamu Port construction continues unaffected by the decision, dashing petitioners’ expectations of seeing the project proponents take tangible steps to implement the court’s judgment. Equally the fishermen are still waiting for their compensation.

What is the way forward for Lamu community members, if the judgement is upheld or otherwise? Are the project planners sensitive to heritage? Do they understand that heritage is intertwined with a people’s identity, worldview and their livelihoods?

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.