Case Study: Wasini Women’s Board Walk, Kenya

The following example, from a fishing community in southern Kenya, is based on one of the few projects that specifically targets women. It is an example of a project that combines ecotourism with the management of a marine protected area.

The Wasini Women’s Boardwalk is on Wasini Island adjacent to the Kisite Marine National Park and the Mpunguti National Reserve off the Kenyan coast. The island is bordered by a fringing reef on the seaward side and an extensive mangrove stand on the southwestern end. A steady stream of tourists visits the island daily after snorkeling or diving at the adjacent Kisite Marine National Park, providing an accessible market for the boardwalk. Tourists are charged a small fee (US$1.25) for a boardwalk tour that passes by fossil coral structures and goes through a healthy stand of mangroves with opportunities to view sea birds, fiddler crabs, and mollusks.

The boardwalk, owned by the Wasini Women’s Group with permission of the Forestry Department, was completed in 2001 with funding from the Kenya Wildlife Service and Netherlands Wetland Program. Various non-governmental organizations, including Pact and the World Conservation Union’s Eastern Africa Regional Office, and the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Kenya program have provided training in business management, governance, and leadership for the group.

The project required that the Wasini Women’s Group commit to managing the boardwalk as a group, take responsibility for repairs and maintenance to ensure sustainability, pledge a share of revenues to education, and work to minimize cutting of mangroves for fuel.

The beneficial effects of the project include increased goodwill in the local community, which has led to improved surveillance of the Marine Protected Area (for example, reporting of poaching activities); increased biodiversity protection of the mangrove forest and reefs around Wasini Island; and effective demonstration to the local communities of the nonextractive uses of marine ecosystems.