Accelerating the transition to inclusive sustainable blue economy in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) through shared learning in Our Blue Future (OBF) collaborative system 

Local communities play an important role in utilizing and managing coastal and marine resources and ecosystems including fisheries, species of special importance, coral reefs and mangroves. The local communities depend on these resources and ecosystems for their livelihood, food and nutritional security and income. Over the years these resources continue to dwindle and the local communities who depend on them remain marginalized.  In 2018, when Kenya hosted the global international Sustainable Blue Economy Conference, the role of local communities and civil society organizations was recognized. However, the challenge is how to empower the local communities and CSOs to harness the potential and opportunities presented by the blue economy in their respective jurisdictions and the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) region in general.  

As part of capacity building and empowering local communities to take leadership and stewardship role for improved governance and management of coastal and marine resources, the South West Indian Ocean Tuna Platform (SWIOTUNA) with the support of WWF in collaboration with the OBF Secretariat recently completed a lesson learning tour to Kenya. The three-day mission which took place from 26th to the 28th June 2023 involved 20 representatives from the different stakeholder groups including fisherfolk and representatives of Civil Society Organizations who are SWIOTUNA members drawn from Kenya, United Republic of Tanzania, Mozambique and Madagascar. The main objective of the mission was to offer an opportunity to the SWIOTUNA members to learn and share experiences on various on the ground led ISBE solutions by different stakeholder groups including the private sector, local communities and the government in an integrated approach as well as explore opportunities for scaling out and up in the respective Southern Western Indian Ocean (SWIO) range countries. 

Lesson learning and sharing experiencing is an important approach for building capacity of local communities to adopt and implement best practices for transitioning to inclusive sustainable blue economy as envisioned by OBF. Our Blue Future (OBF) overarching vision is a healthy, prosperous, and resilient WIO region for all, underpinned by participatory governance, sustainable economies and thriving coastal and marine ecosystems. In order to realize this vision, one of the strategic pillars of Our Blue Future (OBF) is to empower communities so that they are better informed and build their capacity to be better stewards of blue economy assets in their areas of community interest. This would consequently help catalyze the transition to inclusive sustainable blue economy in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) region

The team visited various public, private sector and community led on the ground blue economy initiatives which included Mikoko Pamoja in Gazi (Kwale County), Kuruwitu Community Conservation Association in Mtwapa (Kilifi County), Ngomeni Beach Management Unit (BMU) in Magarini (Kilifi County), Crab Alive Ltd in Magarini (Kilifi County), Tropical SeaLife Ltd in Mtwapa (Kilifi County) and Liwationi Fishing Complex in Mombasa City (Mombasa County) . Prior to engaging in the field activities, the team paid a courtesy call to the Office of the Assistant Director of Fisheries, Kenya Fisheries Service in Mombasa. The government of Kenya is putting up Liwatoni Fishing Complex which includes a a new fish processing plant with capacity of 250 tons per day at Liwatoni.  The initial plan is to start processing some 50 tons per day for fresh and frozen and 25 tons per day for canned tuna.  The complex once complete will allow processing of tuna from artisanal fishers, modern fuel bunker, fish auction center and can making factory.


Some of the participants being shown how to take undertake carbon stock assessment in a mangrove stand at Mikoko Pamoja

Some of the participants watching marine life in the Kuruwitu community conservation area. 

Key lessons learned?  

  • Co-creation and co-designing integrated ISBE solutions with the local communities is crucial for effective and efficient delivery of the desired results and sustaining positive impacts.  
  • Innovative solutions and better ways of transitioning and harnessing the potential of inclusive sustainable blue economy requires technological and scientific input. For instance, the crab hatchery at the Crab Alive, aquarium facility at Tropical Sealife, the design and establishment of Kuruwitu Locally Managed Marine Area (LMMA) and the Mikoko Pamoja Mangrove Blue Carbon initiative.  
  • Coastal and marine resources are important for livelihood, income and food security for the local communities. Conservation and development initiatives within the blue economy ecosystem must demonstrate and make socio-economic sense among the local communities. 
  • Developing communication products and enhancing visibility of best practices and innovative solutions is essential for scaling up and out as well as advocacy and agenda setting.  
  • Building effective strategic partnerships involving the public, private sector, civil society organizations, local communities and other key actors are necessary for in leveraging resources and efforts for successful and impactful ground led ISBE solutions. 
  • Countries in the WIO region are now developing their ISBE policies and strategies. A comprehensive policy and legal framework for a thriving sustainable blue economy should be inclusive and participatory taking into consideration the interest of the local communities and the wider stakeholder groups.  
  • Capacity building including lesson learning, training programmes and facilitating access to finances are essential ingredients in accelerating the transition to community led ISBE solutions.  

Conclusion and way forward 

It was evident on the ground of some successful blue economy practices safeguarding community livelihoods as well as providing innovative solutions to myriad challenges affecting coastal communities and ecosystems. They illustrate co-creation and co-designing of innovative nature-based solutions such as blue carbon Mikoko Pamoja Mangrove Project, collaborative fisheries management by the Ngomeni Beach Management Unit (BMU), private sector led crab farming at Crab Alive and Aquarium/ Ornamental fisheries at Tropical Sealife. The government has the responsibility to put in place enabling environment including policy and infrastructure along the different blue economy value chains. All the sites visited show some highly contextual good practice based on the local situation and demonstrates significant achievements in harnessing the blue economy potential. Nevertheless, there were also some challenges and barriers that limit transition to inclusive sustainable blue economy developing within the context of local communities and the private sector.   

In developing and implementing sustainable blue economy strategies, special attention and priority should be given to the non-state actors and more specifically local communities who are the main custodians and depend on coastal and marine based resources for their sustainable livelihood.  

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