Location: Kiunga and Kiwayu, Lamu County
Postal address: C/O NCC PO Box 450, 80500 Lamu
Manager: Mohamed Sharif
Contact: E: sharifmohamed55@yahoo.com T: 0722-668-858
Ethnicity: Bajun, Somali, Boni
Population: 4,500
Land Ownership: Community Land
Core Conservation Area: TBC
Main Livelihood: Fishing
Key Wildlife Species: Buffalo, lion, water buck, lesser kudu, hippo, wild dog, dolphin, turtles, dugong, sharks, rays
Year of Registration: 2014
Staff Employed from the Community: 19
Annual Operating Budget: US$ 70,000


Between the ancient port of Lamu and the border with Somalia lies Kenya’s most pristine marine ecosystem. Coastal rainforest, lifegiving mangrove swamps and clean ocean waters are reminiscent of what Kenya’s entire coastline must have looked like a few centuries ago. But, like all the NRT member conservancies, the communities and wildlife living in this delicate wilderness face an increasing number of challenges.

Kiunga Marine Community Conservancy was established by the local people in a response to the Kiunga Marine National Reserve (KMNR). Managed by the Kenyan government’s wildlife branch; the Kenya Wildlife Service, the National Reserve covers 270 square kilometers of the area around Kiunga and Kiwayu. KMNR was actually declared a UNESCO site by the United Nations, under their Man and the Biosphere programme, which means that at the same time as conserving marine life, the management of it must promote sustainable community development as well. The designation of this as an internationally recognized conservation site, with the responsibility of nurturing both community livelihoods and wildlife, encouraged the Kiunga community to come together and establish a community conservancy which would encompass the KMNR. This means that management issues will have to be addressed jointly between KWS (who now have a responsibility to support community conservation under the new Wildlife Act) and the Kiunga Community Conservancy board. NRT work closely with the Kenya Wildlife Service across many of the community conservancies, but joint management of an area will be a first in this partnership.

Kiunga will be supported by NRT-Coast, a satellite NRT support centre with a headquarters in Lamu. Its focus is solely on the priorities of the 6 coastal NRT conservancies, who face different challenges than their inland cousins.

The People

The coastal communities in the north of Kenya are arguably some of the most remote and marginalised in the country. Poor infrastructure, a lack of government services and poverty have hindered the development of the communities here, leading to an increase in conflict and an over-exploitation of marine resources.

Historically, the Boni are semi-nomadic forest dwellers, whose livelihoods have depended on the wood, meat, honey, herbal medicines and fertile soil of the Awer and Dodori forests for hundreds of years. However in recent years, marginalisation of the community and destruction of large portions of their forest home has left the Boni struggling to come to terms with a new identity; trying to forge new livelihoods in a very different world. The Bajun people that share Kiunga with the Boni have traditionally always depended on the ocean, and yet with depleting resources they too are having to adapt. They are fishermen, sailors and shipbuilders by tradition, but many have now moved to small scale farming. Populations of both the Bajun and the Boni have dwindled in the past century, and many are faced with extreme poverty and no access to medical care or education.

The NRT conservancy model aims to change all this, by ensuring communities can earn a sustainable living through conservation. A conservancy board has now been democratically elected for Kiunga, and members are in the process of being trained in good governance practices and financial accountability. The conservancy has a vision to diversify incomes for families, promote eco-tourism, improve infrastructure and sustainably manage their natural resources. By combining the local people’s traditional knowledge of their environment with modern science and research, it is hoped that similar programmes to those being embraced by inland NRT conservancies can be adapted to Kiunga to help them achieve these goals.


Kiunga Marine Conservancy lies in the Bajuni archipelago at the northern extreme of the Kenya coast. This is a coastal ecosystem that extends up to Kismayu in Somalia, and has remained largely untouched by ‘outsiders’. The area is characterised by a linear series of barrier islands sheltering extensive mangrove forests in the protected lagoons, which also support large areas of seagrass, a vital habitat for the elusive and rare dugong. The mangrove forests carry out a multitude of functions. By providing nesting and nursery grounds for hundreds of fish species as well as shelter and food, they nurture a vital part of the food chain. They also absorb carbon dioxide, help prevent erosion, act as buffers during storms, and as filtration systems for the water.

Kiunga is also an important area for coral reefs, each a colourful and rich ecosystem in their own right. Whales, dolphins, sharks and rays also thrive in this unspoilt habitat. On the shoreline, five different species of sea turtle use the beaches around Kiunga to nest, making this a vital area for turtle conservation too.

Visiting Kiunga

Being a relatively new NRT conservancy, the communities in Kiunga are concentrating on improving security operations, infrastructure development and sustainably managing their precious natural resources. This area holds such a unique diversity of wildlife and culture, that there is no reason it will not be able to generate income through successful eco-tourism ventures in the future. The Conservancy is also home to the bonefish, one of the most sought after game fish in the world. Fly fishing tourism could provide a substantial income for Kiunga in the future if the fishing is sustainability managed.

The Future

With assistance from NRT and partner organizations, Kiunga aims to achieve the following in the coming years:

  • To convene, along with all other NRT community conservancies, in annual general meetings to share plans and progress
  • To take part in a livelihood baseline survey, commissioned by NRT, with a view of determining the status and priority of education, health, water, jobs, food security, infrastructure and current availability of government services
  • To continue the strengthening of wildlife security and monitoring within the conservancy
  • To sign a partnership memorandum of understanding, along with all other community conservancies, between themselves and NRT
  • To register as not-for-profit
  • To develop a conservancy management plan endorsed by the constituent community in Kiunga