Situated north of Watamu, Jimba Village is set a little further back from the coastline. The Jimba fishermen use the landing site in the neighbouring coastal village of Kanani.
As the Kanani area is one of the worst for turtle poaching, our conservation and community work needs to be conducted in a tactful fashion. Simply storming in with the police in tow and pointing out whom the ‘baddies’ are, is not the way forward and would lead to an escalating situation between LOT and the fishermen with the turtles paying the ultimate price. Instead, LOT Community Liaison Officers Sammy and Athman work closely with the fishermen to show them why turtles are needed in the marine environment and that there are not many left.
They demonstrate how sustainable fishing practices are vital for their livelihoods and show them that there are ways other than fishing to make money. Thanks to efforts from Sammy and Athman, the fishermen in Jimba have formalised themselves into the Jimba Pomboo Fishermen Group (Pomboo is Swahili for Dolphin), or Jimbo Pomboo for short.
The Jimba Pomboo are artisanal fishermen who do not have access to large or complex fishing gear, they instead use what materials are available to them. They construct their own spearguns and nets, sometimes using mosquito netting (if you think those mosquito nets that NGOs are handing out are actually used over a bed, think again!). These fishing practices are unsustainable and illegal in Kenyan waters but when you have to find a way to feed your family these sort of things don’t really matter.
This is where LOT comes into play and where we make a real difference. By forming the Jimba Pomboo Fishermen Group, Sammy and Athman have an effective forum in which to engage all the fishermen in the community. Laws and consequences regarding the use of illegal fishing gear and fishing within the Marine Reserve are carefully explained. We find that many fishermen are simply not aware that these practices are illegal.
A second strategy is to look at what resources are available in the direct vicinity of the village and utilise them to provide an alternative source of income to fishing. Under the guidance of LOT, the members of Jimba Pomboo have raised money among themselves to build a shed where they can undertake Alternative Income Generating projects. The Jimba Pomboo now produce gravel and have started a tree nursery. Through contacts that LOT has with the Kenya Forest Service, the Jimba Pomboo were given permission to collect seedlings for their nursery and LOT has donated several Kapok trees (Ceiba pentandra) that are used to make the traditional dug out canoes. Income from these projects benefit the entire community and inspires people to become more entrepreneurial.
Sammy meets with the Jimba Pomboo every week to discuss their progress, to provide technical advice (Sammy is very good with plants) and to promote conservation and sustainable fishing practices. There has been very good response from members, some even explaining how for more than 12 years they have eaten turtle meat without realizing the implication of their actions. Recently they alerted our liaison officer about a palm wine den where turtle meat and stolen goats were being served to the revellers. As a village, they took action to have the place closed down for good.
The Jimba Pomboo are a promising group in an area where life is especially tough and the only way to survive is to use what you can find. By helping to create opportunities for enriching their lives, LOT believes that in due time these fishermen will, of their own accord, become advocates for sustainable fishing and even active conservationists.