Kenya Placeholder

The Kuruwitu locally managed marine area - a means to protect marine habitats whilst enhancing the livelihoods of local people.

About the Implementing organization

Name: The Kuruwitu Conservation & Welfare Assocation

Country: Kenya

Year of establishment: 2003

Type of organization: Community-based association or organization


In 2005, KCWA set aside 30ha of reef as a marine protected area. This was in response to the fact that the ecosystem had become degraded due to overfishing and if action was not taken swiftly, the fishery was at serious risk of collapse. This would be disastrous for the local community, who depend on the sea for their livelihoods. With no fishing in the MPA, fish can breed and grow large. As fish stocks rise, they move out of the MPA which boosts fish catches outside of the MPA. At the same time, levels of biodiversity increase, which provides opportunities for eco-tourism. Visitors pay a fee to snorkel in the MPA or take tours on a glass bottomed boat. The profits of this activity are fed back into the Association to cover such costs as salaries for rangers who patrol the MPA to ensure that no fishing takes place, as well as support community projects and alternative livelihood activities. This action is innovative as the majority of fisheries in Kenya do not take the breeding cycle of key fish species into account. In Kuruwitu, protected areas become engines of future fish stocks, creating a sustainable fishery Also, marine conservation is typically the remit of the government, who have historically not involved local communities in the designation and management of reserves. KCWA was initiated and is managed by the community, which demonstrates that when empowered to do so, local communities can effectively manage the natural capital upon which they depend.

Nature Element

Oceans / Coasts

Type of Action

Protection / Restoration / Sustainable use / Pollution prevention, clean up / Awareness and education

Sustainable Development Element

Jobs and livelihoods / Food security / Water security

Related Sustainable Development Goal(s)


Environmental Impacts

Since the creation of the MPA at Kuruwitu, fish, coral and invertebrate biodiversity has increased dramatically. The MPA is located in a shallow tidal lagoon, between the shore and fringing reef. Traditionally, fishermen walk through such areas at low tide, fishing in tidal pools. This causes significant damage to fragile corals, and as fish are not able to escape they are easy to catch. This activity has not taken place for 12 years, as corals recovered very well and the area has become a nursery for juvenile fish.

The MPA has become a very important reserve for fish stocks. As fish numbers increase, they spread outside of the MPA and which boosts catches outside. As fish grow in size, they become far more productive. For example, a 40cm coral trout will produce 350,000 eggs whilst a 60cm coral trout will produce 3,000,000 eggs. These two factors help create more sustainable fisheries, which are critical to protect the livelihoods of fishing communities in Kuruwitu.

Sustainable Development Impacts

Jobs & Livelihoods: KCWA directly employs 10 people, including 1 project manager, 2 tour guides, 1 boat captain and 6 rangers. Numerous part time jobs are created throughout the year. These jobs include teams for beach cleaning, remuneration for locating and protecting turtle nests and fish mongers to name a few. KCWA also looks to partner with local businesses to develop alternative income activities. Included are a carpentry business, a tailor and an agricultural business. Food security: The MPA boosts fish catches due to the spill over effect detailed above. This increases the amount of revenue generated by fishermen, which helps them purchase other food stocks. Fishermen also subsist from their catch, so higher catches increase food security. Water security: KCWA runs a water project that ensures the local community has access to clean, safe drinking water. This is of particular importance during dry periods as wells and boreholes tend to produce brackish water when low.


KCWA is working with the local Beach Management Unit (BMU), the Kenyan State Department of Fisheries and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) to develop a co-management plan that will cover a 100 km2 area of ocean off the Kenyan coast. Through this co-management plan, KCWA will work with local fishermen to promote the sustainable use of marine resources, to reduce post-harvest losses and improve fish marketing systems. Through these activities, KCWA will ensure that social and economic benefits to the local community are maximised.

This is the first collaborative management scheme of its kind on the Kenyan coast, and will set a precedent for community involvement in such processes. It presents an opportunity to demonstrate the importance of community involvement in natural resource management plans, a principle that can be applied throughout the country and further afield.


Since its establishment in 2003, around 20 LMMAs have been set up in Kenya, most of whom have visited KCWA to learn about the project and replicate its success locally. Groups of Kenyan fishermen from Lamu, Pate Island, Watamu, Takaungu, Tsunza, Kilifi and Kiunga have visited KCWA for training. The Association has also hosted groups from Tanzania and has participated in workshops in Madagascar and South Korea. A group from Djibouti will soon visit KCWA to learn about community led marine conservation. KCWA is working with the NGO Oceans Alive to develop an LMMA toolkit that will help support LMMA managers to define, establish and improve LMMAs in Kenya. The aim of this toolkit is to catalyse the spread of LMMAs in the country. This will feed into a broader project being run by Blue Ventures to provide tools and support to LMMAs across the Western Indian Ocean Region.

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