group of women in Kilifi county plan to set up the area’s first-ever floating restaurant and a tree house. Tourists are used to visiting Mida Creek for birdwatching. The new plan offers lovebirds a getaway in the mangrove forest along the creek, and tourists in general a chance to enjoy local cuisine and fresh seafood.
The 17 women, under the banner of Bidii na Kazi women’s group, are setting up their project in Mida Creek, a world-renowned biosphere reserve in Watamu.
The women intend to use the project to generate income and further their efforts to conserve the marine ecosystem.
If successful, the project will ensure they preserve the 32km-square mangrove forest creek and promote eco-tourism at the.
Mida Creek is a marine park reserve gazzetted in 1972. It is a popular bird-viewing site that attracts scholars and all kinds of tourists who love nature.
Reports show the creek attracts thousands of bird species, which come for honeymoon from September to April, before returning to their original homes for hatching.
The Bidii na Kazi women’s group began conservation work in 2004. It involved setting up mangrove nurseries and using them for rehabilitating destroyed areas to maintain the ecosystem.
Some mangroves in the nurseries are sold to corporate or other environmental management organisations.
However, the women felt Mida creek, which has become a major tourist attraction site due to its uniqueness, still has more to offer to visitors.
The women feel that for them to transform their lives, they need an income-generating project that will pay them on a daily basis.
Apart from nursing mangrove trees, they also engage in forest honey making, which to them is good but takes time to generate income.
Nowadays, even honeymooners frequent the area to have an opportunity to watch the unique birds species, which are rarely found in the world.
They usually enjoy the boardwalk, which offers an opportunity to watch birds and the mangrove from a vantage point.
Moreover, visitors get a chance to go round the creek in a canoes to watch crabs and even visit magical islands along the mangrove area.
However, the women feel nature lovers deserve to get more at the Mida Creek, and the floating restaurant would help clients have a taste of traditional Swahili dishes and seafood cooked directly from the ocean.
FORMER MCA’S INPUT
The group is led by Arafa Baya, a former nominated MCA and a 2010 presidential award winner for her commitment to conserving and promoting ecotourism at the Mida Creek and Arabuko Sokoke Forest in Kilifi county.
Arafa says the women have been at the forefront of conserving the mangrove forest along the Mida Creek and need to benefit from the resources around the creek in a sustainable way.
She says the idea of rehabilitating the mangrove forest came about following the continued destruction of the endangered mangrove forest. The communities around Mida Creek tore the forest apart for fuel and construction.
Their initiative first was to set up a nursery for mangroves, which would then be planted to the areas affected by the destruction.
Today, they have over 10,000 seedlings of the mangrove trees that are sold to corporate groups and individuals who come to plant the seedlings along the ocean.
Mangroves provide a wide range of ecosystem services, including coastal protection, nursery habitat for fish and water purification.
The mangroves have a wide range of associated ecological benefits, including improved fisheries, wildlife habitat and coastal protection.
“The project seeks to raise income from forest resources, including carbon credits and other income-generating activities, such as beekeeping and ecotourism, for community benefit,” Arafa says.
She says mangrove conservation serves as their main source of income and livelihood support.
Their beekeeping project has more than 50 hives within the mangrove forest, where they harvest mangrove forest honey that is medicinal and highly valued in the market, earning them income.
Their main aim is to provide long-term incentives for mangrove protection and restoration. This is done through community involvement and a conservation and restoration project, which involves community-based policing of illegal mangrove harvesting, as well as the application of local expertise in mangrove planting.
Arafa says it is the responsibility of the county government and national government to realise the contribution made by the women in Mida Creek to support them in advancing sustainable development in conserving the marine ecosystem.
“Tourists come to enjoy the boardwalk, watch birds and enjoy the magnificent views of the creek and adjacent islands, which can only be accessed by canoe riding and camping site,’’ she says.
She says the area is diverse and with proper planning and investment, the community stands a chance to attract more tourists and create employment for the local community, which has been tasked with protecting the environment.
The floating restaurant and the tree house she says will offer more attraction for the visitors and give the community a chance to not only get jobs but even sell products .
“Fishermen will be able to sell their fresh fish directly to the women working in the restaurant even before they reach the shores of the creek,” she says.
The conservationist says with the effects of climate change, the area receives less rains.
“The county and national governments should support women and youth groups to conserve the Mida Creek in a sustainable way through proper conservation methods,” she says.
TREE HOUSE PRIVACY
The tree house, she says, shall also be within the Mida Creek. It will offer a chance for honeymooners seeking privacy and nature to have a romantic moment in the mangrove forest.
Once the women are assisted, Arafa says, no one will seek bursaries or have minor problems within the community.
“I have benefited a lot since 2004, and I would like to see the local community benefit also,” she says.
Group member Sidi Baya says their conservation efforts have changed the area and increased mangrove forest cover, which was being destroyed by loggers who didn’t cared about the environment and posterity.
“As women with a vision to provide sustainable solutions, we have managed to come up with proper ways to harness from the ecosystem. We are currently planning to construct bandas and a campsite within the creek,” she says.
ONE OF A KIND
Village headman Suleiman Bakari says he has seen many groups come up in the village, but described Bidii na Kazi as one that stands out from the rest in their conservation efforts and environmental policing.
“Every community member is proud to associate with their projects because the youth are also engaged through beach cleanup tour guides and other activities,” he said.
“The government should appreciate their efforts and support their activities.”
Some income from sales will be used to cover project costs. The net profit will be invested in local projects determined through community consultation.
Once the initiatives succeed and the women are supported to introduce the two projects, Mida Creek will have an additional attraction that will not only promote the already renowned creek but also empower the community to become more independent.