The future of Africa’s oceans lies in the hands of conservation leaders from across the continent. That was the vision promoted in the first in-person meeting of 17 marine conservation leaders from Comoros, Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Somalia on our African Marine Conservation Leadership Programme (AMCLP) in the Kenyan coastal town of Diani in May.
We launched this high-impact accelerator programme in 2020 to bring together leaders from some of Africa’s most dynamic marine conservation organisations and strengthen the network of ocean changemakers helping rebuild fisheries in the Western Indian Ocean.
“The leadership programme has been a journey of self-discovery,” said Patrick Kimani, a director of Kenyan marine conservation organisation COMRED.
“I can now understand myself, colleagues and the communities better and tap into the different skills they have to carry out conservation work,” he said.
Other participants, such as Fiona Moejes, who runs the Mawazo Institute, said that she had already noticed how the course, which had previously been held online due to COVID-19, had honed her collaborative skills.
“I have always brought together people’s ideas and approaches to solve issues. This programme helps me use these strengths to become a better leader,” she said.
Increasing community and local engagement in marine and coastal conservation is key to tackling climate change and food security problems, and capable local organisations are best placed to respond.
“The marine leadership network creates a platform to voice communities’ concerns and advocate for them,” said Justin Beswick, programme manager at Kenyan marine conservation organisation Bahari Hai.
We also want to help African leaders advocate for the rights and roles of the countries and coastal communities they support in managing fisheries and conserving marine life internationally.
“This year, Africa will host the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) for the first time at the COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. Identifying and strengthening the skills of African marine conservation leaders and creating this network is so important,” said Randall Mabwa, Blue Ventures’ Regional Communications Officer in East Africa.
“On the international stage, some of the most pressing issues on the agenda will affect African communities the most. Yet, these communities have been systematically under-represented and marginalised in these spaces. By strengthening the skills of leaders in Africa, we help amplify the voices of people denied a seat at the decision making table,” said Mabwa.
We want to expand this leadership programme to other regions to create a global movement of conservation leaders whose work leads to thriving fishers and oceans. We have already begun working in West Africa to identify potential partners and will soon launch a West African advocacy campaign to protect sustainable artisanal fisheries, which provide jobs, income and food to local communities from the devastating impact of industrial distant water fleets in African waters.