Smooth sailing ahead for Pate marine rangers as U.S ambassador to Kenya hands over new patrol boat
Mtangawanda is a sleepy pier-side settlement on the western tip of Pate Island Conservancy, Lamu. It is where dhows dock, boats carrying fish, supplies and fresh water offload their cargo onto donkeys, and kids play on the beach next to the mangrove forest. But on Thursday 10th November Mtangawanda was transformed into a hive of activity, as residents prepared for a VIP visit.
Men, women and children lined the pier, while the Conservancy board, the chairman of NRT-Coast, the Pate ranger squad and the local Member of County Assembly were among those present on the beach to welcome U.S Ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec, and USAID Mission Director for Kenya & East Africa, Karen Freeman, to the island. The ranger squad paraded, and were inspected by the Ambassador.
Earlier this year, Ambassador Godec launched the new USAID grant to NRT, which includes support to coastal conservancies like Pate. In celebration of this, Thursday’s event saw the Ambassador hand over a new patrol boat to the Pate Marine rangers. Speeches were given by the Ambassador himself, as well as NRT’s Chief Conservation Officer, Chairman of NRT-Coast, Chairman of Pate Conservancy, the Member of County Assembly for Faza Ward, The Nature Conservancy representative, and a representative from the County Fisheris Department, with whom Pate work closely.
Pate Marine Community Conservancy is blessed with rich waters and acres of mangrove forest. Lying about 10 kilometres to the north of Lamu on Kenya’s north coast, Pate has been a member of NRT since 2012. Livelihoods on the island depend largely on fisheries, but the effects of climate change, overfishing, and rising populations are putting increasing pressure on the delicate marine ecosystems of Lamu. Historically, communities have lacked access to the resources and finances needed to implement change. However, with support from USAID and others, the community conservancy model is helping communities on Pate improve governance, strengthen natural resource management, and explore conservation-linked enterprise.
“NRT has been doing some extraordinary work across northern Kenya” said Ambassador Godec in his speech to the audience, who were gathered under an acacia tree.
Pate employs a team of 10 rangers, who conduct regular patrols around the island. Until now, they have had to rely on the goodwill of other boat owners to do this, as the Conservancy didn’t own one. The new boat handed over by the Ambassador will significantly improve their ability to carry out their important work.
A community based marine management and monitoring system (Marine CoMMS) allows Pate rangers to easily gather vital data on key fish species, marine habitats and mangrove swamps. This data is used by the Conservancy to make informed decisions about conservation activities, such as where to most effectively deploy rangers on patrol. It has also been a key part of setting up the Pate Fisheries Co-Management Plan. Supported by both USAID and The Nature Conservancy, this co-management plan is the most detailed plan of its kind in Lamu and Lower Tana. A true effort between fishermen, traders, coastline business owners and the county government – it sets out no-catch zones, gear restrictions and seasonal fishing areas based on science. Its trial on Pate can now be used to shape management plans for other marine areas.
Good governance is at the core of Pate’s success. USAID support has enabled NRT’s regional office, NRT-Coast, to build the capacity of the elected board, finance team and manager of Pate. This has allowed more effective partnership development, communications and operational oversight of the conservancy. In his speech, Ambassador Godec commended the chairman and the board members for their good work.
“It’s an impressive sign of the partnership between the American people and the people of Lamu” he said of the USAID support to NRT. “What you are doing to build your lives is so very important. It is your leadership that matters. I know that through your efforts, and with our small support, that you are going to be hugely successful accomplishing the objectives that you want for your area. You are going to build your community, you’re going to protect your wildlife, and you’re going to empower your people. It’s all very important.”