Watamu Marine Association is a unique initiative at the Kenyan coast comprising of over 30 member groups and organisations from a cross section of the tourism, community and environment sectors in Watamu. It commenced in 2008 as a registered Community Based Organisation (CBO) and in 2011 registered as a Civil Society (Association). It is situated in Watamu in Kilifi County in Coast Province, Kenya. WMA supports community development and empowerment and works and advocates for the protection and preservation of Watamu Marine National Park and Reserves.
Watamu Marine Park and Reserve beaches and environs have become increasingly impacted by solid waste pollution, mostly in the form of plastic waste. This waste comes from a number of sources and mostly from outside the area. Due to the nature of ocean currents in the region much of the waste is washed ashore from other countries in the Southwest Indian Ocean. Also, due to a lack of waste collection sites and disposal facilities in the area a considerable amount of waste is dumped by local people on roadsides and waste land.
A project goal of WMA was to provide a solid waste free environment for the benefit and welfare of the local community and environment, and the Watamu Marine Park which is vital to the tourist community. The Municipal Council has a very limited waste collection and disposal capacity. For safety reasons the Council was forced to close down the Watamu waste disposal site in 2007. This immediately resulted in illegal tipping and dumping of rubbish in the Watamu area. The project therefore fills a significant gap and provides a much needed service to the environment and the community. This project generates employment, fosters greater understanding and communication between local business and the community and helps support the tourist industry, without which the local economy would collapse. The project involves; Community managed and coordinated collection, recycling and disposal of solid waste from beaches and village environs, Recycling of solid waste as a source of income generation, Providing education and awareness forums to inform the community on the problem of solid waste pollution and the threat it poses to human health, the environment and the local economy. This is a unique initiative at the coast and is intended to raise public awareness to the problems related to solid waste and pollution and to demonstrate the potential of community initiatives.
While in Kenya in September 2012 Friends From Ireland were delighted to donate €12,750 to WMA to part-fund the recycling plant which was built in 2014. It currently employs 23 part time and 2 full time waste collectors who clean Watamu beaches, roadsides and environs and sort waste for recycling. The collector’s income is provided by Watamu tourism and business sector sponsorship and from sales of processed plastic to the plastic recycling industries
The recycling facility has plastic and glass waste sorting and loading bays and operates plastic crushing machinery. The crushed plastic is sold to recycling industries in Mombasa and the glass is either used for construction of walls, as a building aggregate or for making unique art installations.
The sorting and processing of waste materials is carried out by community groups’ members who receive employment and income from the enterprise. Profits from recycling will sustain operations and expansion in the mid-term.
Work rooms have recently been constructed for local community groups to operate their small business enterprises from. One room is being used to make natural medicinal products from neem tree and coconut palm oils. These products are remedies for malaria, jigger fleas and a number of skin conditions and diseases. Another room is for community artists to create art and curios made from recycled materials for sale to tourists. A shop has also been built to display the products for sale to the public, hotels and tourists.
An art gallery/showroom will also be built and open to the public to view innovative and unique artwork.
In addition to providing a waste recycling facility, the enterprise is developing the land as a demo site for small environmental technologies and best practices. This includes charcoal alternatives such as bio-fuel briquette making, bio-char made from coconut waste, bio-gas production from manure and organic waste, composting and permaculture, medicinal plant and herb gardens and tree nurseries.
This environmental centre is open to the public and as a tourist attraction and invites government and educational institutions to use it as a case study and centre for learning. Plans are in place to construct an education and accommodation block for Kenyan and international researchers, students and volunteers.
Friends From Ireland is delighted that our support has been instrumental to the development of this unique centre.
Watamu Marine Association
Community Support Project