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Kiwayu Island


Conservation benefit: Turtle conservation and establishment of a 618-acre community marine sanctuary for 10 years

Community benefit: Organization and capacity building of Kiwayu Village Beach Management Unit (BMU) and construction of a BMU office, bandas (traditional huts) and a freshwater well

Date Approved: 02.2013


This project protects ocean ecosystems, making coastal communities more economically and physically secure in the face of climate change.

Kiwayu Island is arguably the most beautiful of all the islands along the Kenyan coast. It is also a renowned biodiversity hotspot in the greater Kiunga Marine National Reserve and a priority conservation site in the Western Indian Ocean. The island is a major turtle nesting site. Leatherback and loggerhead turtles use the area as feeding grounds; green, hawksbill, and olive ridley turtles use the area as both a feeding and nesting site. Shimo la Tewa, on the eastern side of the island, has a rich and diverse coral ecosystem. It is one of the best snorkeling sites for visitors to the island.

Kiwayu’s ecosystems are under threat from human activities such as overfishing, expanding tourism, and development on the island. People also still sometimes kill turtles, or collect eggs, for food. This happens in part because local people haven’t been educated about how turtle populations are vulnerable and need protection. But widespread poverty also drives people to overexploit both the turtles and their habitats. On the island, there is only one school and no clinic. A single water well serves the nearly 4,000 people on the island.

Seacology is funding the construction of an office for the Beach Management Unit, which will be used to coordinate conservation activities. The grant will also fund bandas (traditional huts used as shelters and field meeting sites), and a freshwater well for the Kiwayu community. In exchange, the community will protect turtle nesting sites and conserve 618 acres of coral reef in Shimo la Tewa for 10 years.

Project Updates

May 2017

According to East Africa Field Representative Dishon Murage, four turtle patrols were conducted in the project area to identify and protect nesting turtles. BMU bylaws have been translated from English to Swahili, and copies of the co-management plan were printed and distributed to project partners. Funds initially allocated for the official handing-over ceremony for the project have been redirected so that the BMU office roof can be repaired and the interior of the building can be repainted.

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January 2017

The project is nearing completion. A staircase for the BMU office has been completed, and awareness materials have been produced.

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May 2016

According to East Africa Field Representative Dishon Murage, the project is in its final stages. Some remaining tasks include completing a staircase for the BMU office and printing the final co-management plan.

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January 2016

After numerous and ongoing delays to the construction of the BMU office due to land ownership issues, the building is now 60 percent complete. The demarcated areas within the co-management areas have been finalized and mapped, and the co-management plan itself has been drafted and will be finalized soon.

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January 2015

A new BMU executive committee has identified two possible sites for the BMU office. The BMU is following up with the Kenya Wildlife Service and the Department of Fisheries to secure legal documentation and ownership of a site.

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February 2014

Beach Management Unit (BMU) bylaws have been drafted, and are being reviewed by the Fisheries Department. Once the BMU bylaws are complete, a co-management plan for the marine sanctuary will be developed. A GPS project to map turtle nesting sites is underway. Awareness materials have been designed and disseminated, including a special edition of Mwambao, a Swahili-language magazine geared toward the fisher community. Work to identify a suitable site for the BMU office is ongoing, but finding land is proving difficult due to issues with private investors procuring land. The community well, and sealing and installation of a water pump, are complete, and the community is using the well for fresh water.

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