ACTION

Blue Economy: Time to walk the talk

In Summary

• There is a lot pressure on land resources and food security as a result of climate change, that requires that the country urgently prioritizes use of water based resources.

• Those charged with the responsibility of implement the country’s blue economy strategy should support the President’s commitment and determination to actualize the larger circular economy principle, which is part of SDG 12 to which Kenya a signatory.

President Uhuru Kenyatta with other delegates during the Blue Economy Conference on November 26, 2018.
President Uhuru Kenyatta with other delegates during the Blue Economy Conference on November 26, 2018.
Image: PSCU

We need to walk the talk. We have spoken well. We have shown the commitment. We need to hit the ground running.  There is a lot pressure on land resources and food security as a result of climate change, that requires that the country urgently prioritizes use of water based resources.

Those charged with the responsibility of implement the country’s blue economy strategy should support the President’s commitment and determination to actualize the larger circular economy principle, which is part of SDG 12 to which Kenya a signatory.  In addition to the President’s commitment, we need to contribution of the private sector in terms of investments, academy in terms of researches and civil society contribution on sustainable use of resources advocacy.  Following the Nairobi Blue Economy conference in 2018, participants made voluntary commitments amounting to $172.2 million in various aspects of the Blue Economy, as well as several non-monetary commitments in areas like partnerships and capacity-building.  How far re we with this?

If the death and destruction of corals around Watamu, environmental pollution along the beaches in Diani and in Rivers draining in Lake Victoria, poor fishing methods on Lakes Turkana and Victoria and massive destruction of water catchment area s across the country are anything to go by, its becoming late. Coupled with the adverse effects of climate change, preserving and using resources from the oceans and other water bodies need jump- starting.

The President has done well so far in giving the much needed political will and signed relevant legislation to kick-start the implementation process, but there is seems inertia in the sector. He assented to the Fisheries management and Development Act 2016 and the Climate Change Act 2016, established the Presidential Task Force on the Blue Economy, Hosted global conference on Blue Economy in Nairobi in 2018 and made a presentation on the sidelines of the 2019 UNGAS in New York about his commitment on the Blue Economy. He created the Coast Guards and Marine force to patrol our water borders to ensure proper uses of the marine resources.

We are yet to see practical strategies and implementation of interventions on how to deal with risks such as depletion of resources and degradation of ecosystems through overfishing or destruction of habitat; pollution, including eutrophication, industrial wastes, endocrine disrupters, invasive species that can compromise industrial cooling systems, overtake ecosystems or interfere with aquaculture through toxicity or reduction of yields; coastal erosion exacerbated by storm surge; and the hazards of wind, waves, currents and ice in the broad range of extreme environments where marine operations are conducted. The Fisheries Management and Development Act 2016 requires the establishment of the Fisheries Service Advisory Council and Kenya Fish Marketing Authority to negotiate partnership and fishing access agreements, fisheries monitoring and patrol mechanisms and improve aquaculture to commercial levels.  This is yet to be done.

Coastal and island states are at the forefront of the Blue Economy movement, advocating for solutions tailored to their circumstances, constraints and challenges. Some see the Blue Economy as only including ocean and marine resources; for others, the Blue Economy refers to the sustainable use all water resources (oceans, seas, lakes, rivers and wetlands) for economic growth, improved livelihoods and job creation. Seas, lakes, rivers and wetlands all feed into oceans and marine zones, thereby broadly contributing, in one way or another, to the Blue Economy concept.

In Kenya, UN-Habitat provides technical input in Kisumu’s Lakefront Planning Initiative, a project developed to create quality public space along the lakeshore, while ensuring environmental protection, thereby enhancing the investment potential of the city’s central business district. The Mama Ngina Water Front in Mombasa is another Government led initiative that is show of the commitment.

The Presidential Task Force of Blue Economy needs to be visible and more pro active in pushing the agenda of the president as time is not with us. Public institutions including universities and research agencies must forefront on this issue.