Ocean shores are the least of places one would expect to find treasure, leave alone fish.
In Lamu, there has been complaints regarding rampant dumping on the beaches. The trash is not just an eyesore to tourists, but a risk to marine life, especially animals that breed on the shores.
In Kiwayu Island in Lamu East, a group of women are now doing what many least expected. They are turning the ocean shore trash into treasure.
The Kiwayu Women Help Group is part of the Kiwayu Beach Management Unit, which seeks to ensure the ocean shores remain clean.
The women collect all the trash that pile up on the shores, then sort it out into two catregories: the trash and the treasures.
The group chair Mwanaidi Saumu.Says their objective is to ensure trash is removed from the shores,recycled and re-used.
The group chairperson, Mwanaidi Saumu, says they aspire to turn all the trash into something that can easily be recycled and re-used.
They use the trash to mostly make ornaments and decorations, which they sell to tourists and locals.
“We make all sorts of ornaments from earrings, hair bands, home decorations and much more. It all depends with the trash we gather from the shores,” says Saumu.
A colourful hairband made from the trash
While at it, they ensure the shores of Kiwayu remain clean enough to keep attracting tourists to the island, known for turtle viewing.
“We keep the ocean clean and at the same time make money for personal use. We discovered that tourists love this island and so we intend to keep them coming by keeping dirt away, at least on the shores. They love to come and see turtles and that way, we get a chance to sell them our wares,” adds Saumu.
She says one piece costs between Sh50 to Sh1,000 depending on the size, the material used and the amount of time spent making it.
She says in a good month, the group makes at least Sh25,000, which they distribute among themselves and save a small percentage in their bank account.
When the savings are enough, they plan to buy a boat to take tourists around the island.
Saumu says the venture has transformed lives of many women.
“People would look at us and wonder what we were doing digging up dirt from the ocean shores daily. They thought we would never pull through. But looking at us now five years down the line, many are surprised at the strides we have made in life just from these and we intend to keep at it,” says Saumu.
An assortment if item made by the women.
Another group member, Fauzia Mohamed, says the venture assures them of financial safety.
Fauzia says she has educated her second born son through high school in Mombasa partly through the sale of trash from the shores.
“Humans should stay in clean environments, but if there is something else you stand to benefit from the dirt around you, then go straight for it. We love to keep the Kiwayu ocean shores clean but we are lucky to be making an extra cent while at it,” says Fauzia.
However, the group treasurer, Fatma Alamin, says people should desist from throwing trash and garbage into the ocean, to ensure the safety of marine animals and to also keep the environments clean enough to attract tourists.
She says the group members also find time to dissuade locals from dumping. “You know with the ocean, when you dump dirt there, it doesn’t sink or go away, it simply floats back ashore and begins piling up with the rest. The sight is never good. Our efforts alone will not be enough to keep the shores clean. There is need for all to play a part in this,” says Fatma.
Mwanaidi Saumu-Kiwayu women self help group chairperson.
The women are now appealing to their counterparts all over Lamu County to emulate them and keep the shores clean but make some money in the process.
“It might be a dirty job but it’s worth it. Women from the other parts of Lamu can try it. What you see is not just trash but treasure in hiding that only needs you to have the courage to unearth. That way, Lamu being the tourist destination it is, will remain clean but our pockets won’t stay empty,” says Fauzia.
She however says the venture calls for patience and focus.
“Many people tried to join us but when they didn’t make quick bucks as they expected, they left. But those of us who know that it’s first of all a calling to keep the Kiwayu shores clean, have stayed put. Anyone thinking of this should put the same in mind,” adds Fauzia.