Seacology has worked with communities on Kenya’s Wasini Island since 2008. In our latest partnership, with the people of Mkwiro village, we’ve helped to simultaneously tackle two environmental challenges: overfishing and coastal pollution.

Wasini is an ecological treasure, home to 64 coral genera, more than 250 species of fish, and rich flora including a variety of mangroves and seagrass. Nearly six in ten people in the area depend on marine and coastal resources for their livelihoods. As Wasini’s population grows, this has put increasing strain on the area’s fisheries and the marine ecosystems that support them.

Recognizing this threat, Seacology and our partners have helped to set aside more than 700 acres of marine habitat for protection. The Mkwiro co-management area is a new reserve that with our support is now overseen by well-trained locals. Our project provided funding to support the park’s Beach Management Unit, which monitors the area for illegal fishing and hosts resource-management trainings and outreach efforts to the village to teach and encourage sustainable practices.

Pollution from plastic refuse is another growing concern for ocean ecosystems worldwide, and the problem is especially noticeable at Wasini. Currents wash up many tons of waste on the island’s shore each year. As part of our project, the local community has become part of the solution.

Project partners have organized regular community-led cleanup efforts, which have gathered several tons of waste from Wasini’s beaches. Among the most common—and most valuable—items are thousands of discarded flip-flops. As part of the project, community members recycle the brightly colored foam material into unique handicrafts, everything from small decorative figurines to hats to elaborate beaded curtains and lampshades. They’re also taught marketing and business-management skills and connected to potential buyers. What is left over from these projects is sold to nearby recyclers and repurposing organizations, bringing in extra revenue for the community. Instead of degrading in the ocean to choke and poison wildlife, these piles of discarded footwear have become a source of economic development for some of Kenya’s poorest citizens. On our website, you can browse photos of some our favorite items made from from this repurposed plastic.

The Mkwiro project is one of two recent Save An Acre projects and is nearly complete. After new projects are approved next month, we will be announcing two new options for donors to save an acre of marine or forest habitat for just $40.

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