The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has released Sh31.6 million to eight marine conservation projects in Kwale County through the Small Grants Programme (SGP) initiative.
The funding was unveiled at a stakeholders forum in Shimoni near the border with Tanzania under the banner of Shimoni-Vanga Seascape Community projects.
UNDP country Deputy Resident Representative Mandisa Mashologu said the project beneficiaries are mostly women and youth out to save the ocean from unsustainable activities and protect its unique ecosystem.
“The grants will help the community groups working to restore and conserve the fragile marine environment thereby enhancing food security among coastal fisher communities,” Mashologu said.
Mashologu said the Shimoni-Vanga seascape has been selected as one of three ecologically sensitive areas of national and global significance for focus in this funding phase.
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The others are Baringo landscape representing the lake system and the sacred Mijikenda Kaya forests within Kilifi County.
She said the grants are part of UNDP's continued support to building sustainable livelihoods for ocean resource-dependent communities.
Patrick Kimani, the Project Coordinator for the Coastal Marine and Research Development hailed the donor funding as a ‘critical step for ocean conservation’.
The veteran conservationist said the grant will go a long way in reversing the damage being done by overfishing, plastic pollution, and climate change.
“Coastal communities have high vulnerability to the vagaries of the weather and human activities and all efforts on marine protection for posterity are welcome,” he said.
He said the Shimoni-Vanga seascape is essential for livelihoods of fisher folks, fish traders, fish processors and tourism operators among other dependents adding that the funding for ocean conservation will have positive impacts.
Kimani said threats to oceans are exacerbated by climate change, overfishing, waste dumping, and uncontrolled coastal development.
Kwale County Governor Salim Mvurya said coastal communities are vulnerable to climate change as the people are dependent on natural ocean resources.
The county boss expressed optimism that the UNDP grants will enhance food and nutrition security of vulnerable households.
Mvurya said the small funding investments in conservation groups in the region will make a big difference in protecting coastal areas and marine life.
“We will closely work with UNDP and other stakeholders in empowering the local communities in sustainably managing and conserving the ocean for future generations,” he said.