On 7th May, 2021 Director General KMFRI Prof. James Njiru (3rd left) joined CS Wildlife & Tourism in the launch of National Wildlife Census 2021 at Shimba Hills National Reserve, Kwale County. With them was DG KWS Brig (Rtd) J. Waweru (R), DG KMA R.Njue (4th L), Dr P.Omondi Director WRTI (2nd L). Census will also include Marine Mega Fauna along Kenya coast
KMFRI Director General, Prof. James Njiru (3rd right) with Governor Uasin Gishu County, HE Jackson Mandago (centre) and other County Officials in Eldoret during a consultative meeting on 3rd May, 2021 to establish KMFRI Station in the County
PS SDFA & BE Dr Francis Owino (centre), KMFRI BoM Chair Hon John Mumba (2nd right), KMFRI Director Prof James Njiru (left) during a courtesy call to Mombasa County commissioner Mr Gilbert Kitiyo.
The newly appointed Principal Secretary SDFA & BE Dr Francis O. Owino (seated centre) during his maiden visit at KMFRI Mombasa headquarters on 2nd March 2021.
Kenya Launches a coral reef fish project (Funded by Japan/FAO) to improve food security, livelihoods and maritime safety through increased resilience of coastal fishing communities
KMFRI Mombasa Center Director, Dr. Eric Okuku (centre) representing KMFRI Director and Assistant Director (Projects & Collaborations/CD Shimoni) Dr. James Kairo (right), meet Dr. Mathieu Guerin from France Embassy to explore possible research collaboration with French institutions.
KMFRI Director, Prof. James Njiru (right) exchange MoU with VC Pioneer International University, Dr Gideon Maina (left), this SDFA & BE MoU is on several areas of collaboration that includes Kenya Fisheries Services. The ceremony was witnessed by outgoing PS Prof. Micheni Ntiba on on 22nd Feb. 2021at Kilimo House, Nairobi
KMFRI Director, Prof. James Njiru (right) and Mombasa CD, Dr. Erick Okuku during the World Wetlands day on 2nd February, 2021 held at Sabaki Estuary, the celebration was officiated by the CS for Environment and Forestry Mr. Keriako Tobiko who led government officials and communities in planting mangrove trees
Director KMFRI Prof. James Njiru (right) with Deputy Director Freshwater System, Dr. Christopher Aura (centre) and Ag. ADF, Kenya Fisheries Services, Mr. Simon Munguti (left) during the Launch of Electronic Catch Assessment Survey (e-CAS) system and Stake Holder’s Engagement and dissemination Workshop on Environmental Clean-up and Mentorship Framework at Sosa Cottages in Vihiga County on 4 - 5th Jan, 2021
By Paul Kimanzi
Covid-19 pandemic has almost brought the world to a standstill. Towards the end of August 2020, the disease had claimed over 800,000 lives worldwide, destroyed livelihoods and endangered the global economy.
For coastal seaweed farmers in Kibuyuni and Tumbe villages in Kenyan South Coast, the pandemic came as an insult to injury as the farmers were grappling with challenges of extreme oceanic tidal currents and flash floods from terrestrial surface runoff.
The pandemic struck at a time when the farmers were working on mechanisms to save their farms following the oceanic conditions which had threatened to rob them of their only source of income.
As part of the measures put in place to curb the further spread, the government locked down Nairobi and some coastal counties which had recorded high corona virus cases and restricted social interactions, a move which proved difficult for the seaweed farmers to carry out their normal activities in the farms. As a result, the Kibuyuni seaweed farmers lost Ksh 3.3 million while Tumbe farmers lost Ksh 960,000 from March to May.
To mitigate the situation, Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) dispatched a team of researchers in May to assess the social and economic impacts of Covid-19 pandemic and abnormal tidal and flash floods on the seaweed farming.
Due to the urgency to mitigate the situation, KMFRI sought travel permit to the farming sites in Kwale from the Ministry of Health, noting Mombasa county was still under lockdown where the institute’s recovery team, who were to be involved in the mission, were based.
The approval was granted and a seaweed recovery team composed of KMFRI researchers, divers, technicians from seaweed farmers and seaweed stakeholders such as Kenya Fisheries Service (KFS), Beach Management Units (BMU) embarked on the recovery mission.
At Kibuyuni, the recovery was conducted for three days and most of the seaweed recovered was handed over to the farmers and part of it was preserved in the sea using perforated sisal sacks for Tumbe seaweed farmers which was transported and supplied to them the following day.
Mr Alex Kimathi, a researcher at KMFRI, who was among the experts involved in the mission, said they responded to the call from the farmers whose farms had suffered a double blow from the impact of Covid-19 and rough waters which had washed seeds to the deep sea.
‘A total of 964 kg (wet weight) of seaweeds was recovered from deep waters of the subtidal environment and distributed to more than 80 farmers at Kibuyuni and Tumbe villages. The seaweeds supplied to farmers was immediately planted in respective farms with a focus of propagating more seeds to share with other farmers. The farmers were quite appreciative of the effort and requested that another exercise be conducted to increase the number of farmers supplied with seeds,’ narrates Mr Kimathi.
The lockdown and curfew denied the farmers the ease of access to the established seed banks, to enable them to restock their farms in time, which were already in a sorry state. As a result, farmers lost all the seeds, rendering the farmers jobless, a situation which threatened to reverse the gains made in empowering coastal women as they form the bulk of farmers.
The situation was exacerbated by the fact that farmers could not access some of the materials they use in repairing the farms such as polypropylene ropes which they ordinarily bought from Mombasa County, which was still under lockdown.
The little seaweeds the farmers had already harvested and stored in their farms could not cushion their economy because the buyer could only buy the produce collected in bulks, a threshold which the farmers failed to meet. Worse still, the farmers could not sell the value-added products they make from seaweeds such as soaps and seaweed shampoo because the local businesses were closing down due to the effects of Covid-19.
According to data obtained from Kenya Coastal Development Programme (KCDP), Kenya small scale commercial seaweed cultivation is practised by over 600 farmers distributed in 5 coastal communities namely; Gazi, Mkwiro, Kibuyuni and Funzi in the southern coast of Kenya. The first commercial seaweed farms were established at Kibuyuni in 2009 and have progressively grown in biomass accumulation and a number of interested seaweed farmers. Tumbe is a new seaweed site whose farming began in 2018.
Ms Fatuma Mohammed, a chairperson of Kibuyuni seaweed farmers (now registered as Kibuyuni Cooperative) said they made the first sale of seaweed of about 27 tonnes in 2013 after a long period of hard work. With only three members of the group, she says they faced a lot of uncertainties about the viability of their seaweed project at the initial stages since it was the first of its kind in the country.
‘We received a lot of technical support from KMFRI. We began with some experiments in the sites. Now the project feed our families, educate our children and we contribute to other community events, says MsFatuma.
After sharing the success stories of seaweed farming, more locals have joined in with Kibuyuni group alone having 210 registered members. KMFRI has been offering technical support to all the five coastal communities involved in the commercial seaweed cultivation.