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Coastal Kenya Programme
© © Jonathan Caramanus / Green Renaissance / WWF-UK

WWF-Kenya Coastal Kenya Programme lies within the coastal Kenya region. It covers the geographic areas of Kwale-Kilifi and Lamu-Ijara-Tana Land and Seascapes,

WWF-Kenya has been active in the Coastal Region for almost 20 years working on the conservation and sustainable use of marine and terrestrial resources. Their exploitation contributes not only to local livelihoods but also to the overall economy of the country.
The Kenyan coastal area is endowed with rich seascapes and landscapes resources that are characterized by high productivity and biodiversity and form the social and economic base of the region.

Coastal Kenya and its natural resources
The Kenyan coastline is  approximately 600 km long extending from the Kenya-Tanzania border in the south to the Kenya-Somalia border in the north; between latitudes 1°40΄S and 4°25΄S and longitudes 41°34΄E and 39°17΄E. The landward geographical scope of coastal Kenya is determined by the administrative boundaries of coastal counties namely: Kwale, Mombasa, Kilifi, Tana River, Lamu and part of Taita-Taveta and Garissa counties. While, the seaward boundary is the 200 nautical miles Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) with water surface area of approximately 230,000 km2. 
The coastal Kenya is endowed with variety of natural resources and biologically rich ecosystems and landscapes of both national and international importance. These ecosystems include:  rangelands, woodlands, terrestrial forests, mangroves, mudflats, coral reefs, seagrass beds, estuaries, beaches, sand dunes, rivers, lakes, wetlands, cultural and natural heritage sites.
The forests are highly recognized as having retained and still hold a lot of forest biodiversity. For example more than half of Kenya's rare plants are found in the coast region (over 3000 taxa have been recorded). Specific areas of interest include forest reserves and national reserves (e.g. Shimba Hills ecosystem, Buda Complex, Arabuko-Sokoke, Dodori, Boni and Lungi); biodiversity-rich and sacred Kaya forests also designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Other important ecosystems include: marine areas and mangrove forests (Lamu-Kiunga, Watamu-Malindi, Gazi-Shimoni-Vanga seascapes); marine protected areas; freshwater ecosystems (Lake Kenyatta, River Mkurumudzi); and, several community marine and terrestrial conserved areas.
These resources provide important ecosystem goods and services that are vital for supporting food security and subsistence activities as well as economic sectors like agriculture, fisheries, livestock, forestry, tourism, shipping, mining and energy. This significantly contributes to production, socio-economic development at local and national level and safe guard well-being of coastal communities.

Threats to the land and Seascapes
Threats to the conservation targets in the CKP land and seascapes include unsustainable infrastructure and extractive industries developments; high dependence on natural resources to support communities livelihoods, unsustainable agricultural production systems; unsustainable fishing, unsustainable use of other natural resources (Marine, forest, wildlife and freshwater), poaching (wildlife and marine species), pollution (marine debris and plastics) and climate change impacts.The natural resources include:
  • Land
  •  Rivers
  • Lakes
  • Estuaries
  • Wetlands
  • Grasslands
  • Coastal and mangrove forests
  • Sea grass
  • Coral 
Important economic sectors include:
  • Agriculture
  • Fisheries
  • Livestock
  • Forestry Tourism
  • Mining
The Coastal Kenya Programme aims to address threats to the integrity of the natural resources.  Our work with other strategic partners is geared towards ensuring that the critical coastal forests, marine and freshwater ecosystems are thriving and secured for nature, people and economy in priority places.
The programme’s area of work is  informed by WWF-Kenya’s Strategic Plan 2019-2023. The programme specific objectives include:
  1. Priority marine ecosystems and species are effectively and sustainably managed and are contributing to increased socio-economic benefits to the people.
  2. Key forest landscapes in Lamu, Kwale and Kilifi are conserved, effectively managed and sustainably utilised to benefit local communities and improve ecosystem services
  3. Critical freshwater ecosystems (River Mkurumudzi and Lake Kenyatta) are sustainably managed.
  4. Policy - Natural Resources related policies, plans and strategies are influenced and supported for their implementation at county level.
  5. Climate Change - Mainstreaming climate change adaptation and mitigation in the conservation and management of natural resources.
  6.  Sustainable Investments enhanced.
  7.  Advocacy and lobbying for public support.
Significance of the Coastal Kenya Region
Kenya’s 600 km long coastline  is crucial because it hosts:
  •  All five species of sea turtles living in the Indian Ocean
  • More than 35 species of marine mammals, most of which are threatened or endangered like humpback whales, dolphins and dugongs.
  • More than 11,000 species of marine life, among them whale sharks ply these rich waters, maintained by the intricately interlinked ecosystems and currents.
  • A rich wild prawn fishery thrives in the Tana Delta, along with a major off- shore tuna industry.
Thebiodiversity-rich shoreline encompassing a huge variety of habitats from mangroves and wetlands, through coastal forests, swamplands, to the open savanna and remnants of miombo woodlands at Arabuko- Sokoke as well as montane forests and grasslands in Kwale and  Shimba Hills.
Marine Conservation
The marine conservation programme extends from the Lamu – Tana River – Kilifi – Mombasa and Kwale seascape. This seascape has an important network of marine protected areas and marine co-management areas.
Lamu seascape is a critical biodiversity hotspot accorded high level conservation priority. WWF’s efforts towards protecting the ecological health of marine and coastal ecosystems in Lamu seascape can be dated back to 1995. We have progressively expanded and intensified engagement with the local communities, NGO’s andgovernment agencies in Lamu. Based on the lessons learnt from our conservation initiatives in Lamu, and arising opportunities in the blue economy, we have expanded our marine conservation to cover all counties along the Kenyan coastline. The programme focuses on sustainable fisheries management through research and innovation; capacity building for fishing communities; support fisheries co-management and enterprise development; marine pollution; conservation of endangered marine species such as sea turtles; and, policy advocacy and lobbying.
Forests Conservation
Forest conservation work covers two landscapes which are Kwale-Kilifi and Lamu-Tana. The main focus is promoting sustainable forest management practices for biodiversity conservation and to ensure continued provision of ecosystem services for local community livelihoods and economy. This is done in close collaboration with local institutions, government agencies and private sector and other relevant players.
Freshwater Conservation
This is relatively a new area of work for the programme. The initial focus will specifically be on two water bodies; Lake Kenyatta in Lamu and River Mkurumudzi in Kwale. Access to clean, safe and reliable freshwater is essential for achieving sustainable development. The programme will be working on this two water bodies to ensure quantity and quality water is available for people, ecosystems and local industries. 
Clean Energy Initiatives
The programme has been implementing clean energy village initiatives in Kwale by promoting use of solar lanterns and improved cook stoves. There is an intricate linkage between forests and energy where most community members rely on forest to obtain wood fuel and charcoal thereby destroying the forests. The programme is working with communities to ensure use of improved cook stoves that use less wood fuel which they obtain from their farms through on farm tree growing. This will reduce over reliance on forest resources.
WWF-Kenya’s Interventions in the Coastal Kenya Region
• Community livelihood initiatives have been established and are contributing to poverty reduction and livelihood security.
• Contribution to the designation of the Boni-Dodori ecosystem as one of the world’s Important Bird Areas (IBAs) as well as support for improved management of the biodiversity-rich forests in this ecosystem. The work was done together with BirdLife International, Arocha-Kenya, Nature Kenya, ZSL, KWS, KFS and NMK.
• WWF-Kenya has built the capacity of CSOs to influence change in natural resource management and governance in Coastal Kenya across sectors such as water, forests, wildlife, marine, fisheries and oil and gas.
•Spearheaded the development of the Lamu County Spatial Plan that was approved and launched by the county government of Lamu; the first of its kind in Kenya. It influenced the enactment of Kenya’s first National Spatial Plan and the National Land Use Policy.
Key achievements
  • With support from the National museums of Kenya and local communities over 43 biodiversity rich Kaya sacred coastal forests, are formally gazetted as National Monuments, and nine Kaya sacred coastal forests  sites are  are enlisted as cultural World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.
  • The Shimba Hills ecosystem was recently recognized as a priority national water tower, and Lake Kenyatta as a water catchment area.
  • Marine turtle conservation has been embraced as evidenced by the number of turtle conservation groups active in the Lamu-Tana Seascape as well as the number of protected nests along the coastline.
  •  Together with communities, Kenya Forest Service, KWS and the Fisheries Department, co-management approaches in forest and marine protected areas have been established and are in operation.
  • Supported Kenya Fisheries Service to establish a simplified mobile phone fisheries data collection system to enhance virtual fisheries data collection for sustainable fisheries management.
  • Development of Lamu and Kwale County Spatial plans.

Opportunities in CKP
The Kenyan Coast is experiencing a boom in economic opportunities ranging from large scale infrastructure developments (e.g. LAPSSET, Coal Power plant), extractives (mining, oil and gas) and large-scale irrigational agriculture. These developments create new opportunities and demand a different way of working.
While the approach in the past has been project based, scattered in different places without links, a landscape/ seascape approach is now embraced for greater conservation impact. ,
The programme will still invest in traditional conservation work-streams while at the same time focus on influencing large-scale infrastructure developments so as to minimize their adverse environmental and social impacts.
Private sector engagement will be key and close collaboration with county governments is critical to support spatial planning in coastal counties among other policy investments.