BY MWAKERA MWAJEFA
Coastal women have vowed to confront gender inequality in the ocean-related activities to break the masculinity perception of the maritime industry as targeted by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development goals.
Attending the UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) symposium at the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) auditorium in Mombasa on June 7 (2019), the few women in the male-dominated industry say they will beat all odds to achieve an equal role in managing the industry.
“When you think marine, you think women!” vowed the maritime labour inspector Betty Makena stationed at the Port of Mombasa. “We must ensure an end to unsafe work conditions and guarantee that women have an equal role in managing ocean-related activities.”
Association for Women in the Maritime Sector in Eastern and Southern Africa (WOMESA) secretary Fatma Yusuf says they have started rigorous awareness campaigns to inform women and the girl-child of the existing job potential within maritime sector.
“We must come out in full force and grab the opportunities offered in the industry so as to participate in the blue economy within and without our sea space,” she adds.
Taking this cue is an intern with KMFRI, Sophie Akinyi Kadima, decries the global challenges facing the seagrass conservation warning that if not curbed they will numerous marine ecosystems.
According to her people are not aware of the seagrasses’ significant role in supporting food security, mitigating climate change and supporting biodiversity.
“There is lack of awareness of what seagrasses are and a limited societal recognition of the importance of seagrasses in coastal systems,” she says adding that the status of many seagrass meadows are unknown “and up-to-date information on status and condition is essential”.
She explains that understanding threatening activities at local scales is required to target management actions accordingly between socio-economic and ecological elements of seagrass systems to balance the needs of people and nature.
The intern researcher believes there is need of policy actions that will enable the scientific and conservation community to address emerging challenges linked between seagrass and climate change.
TANA RIVER DELTA
For instance, the Tana Delta wetland area is home to more than 300 fish species with the Ungwana Bay seagrass supporting one of the few remaining dugong (dugong dugon) populations in Kenya and possibly East Africa.
Seagrass, according to Ms Akinyi, is being threatened by a number of human activities including pollution, sedimentation, overgrazing by sea urchins (tripneustes gratilla) and interacting effects of climate related events.
Focusing on this year’s World Oceans Day’s theme of Gender and Ocean, KMFRI mariculture researcher Dr David Mirera says the ocean is a major source of food and medicines and a critical part of the biosphere.
“Through the ocean, Kenya has an opportunity to explore the gender dimension of humankind’s relationship with the ocean to discover possible ways to promote gender equality in ocean-related activities,” he adds.
The scientist is involved in mud crab farming that has changed the livelihoods of Dabaso conservation groups (Mida Creek, Ihaleni and Kibokoni) and Mtwapa Creek that not only form source of food but also income for most local communities in Kilifi County.
According to him fisheries and aquaculture can be among the solution to address food security, nutrition and socioeconomic development as envisaged by the presidential Big 4 Agenda programme.
To ensure the right crab seeds for the mariculture farming, Dr Mirera says plans are underway to finalise the first marine hatchery at Shimoni in Kwale County that will provide farmers with high meat quality and nutritional value crab seeds.
“Research has assisted the Dabaso group to develop a mud crab samosa that is earning them Sh200 per kg of crab,” he says adding that mud crab farming has the potential of becoming a multi-million industry in the coastal region.
The hatchery is expected to help undertake more research in mud crab farming in addition to providing solutions of mud crab feed since currently farmers use fish oval, trash fish and gastropods (terebralia pallustris).
While welcoming the new board led by the former Bahari (now Kilifi South) MP John Safari Mumba recently, the KMFRI director Prof James Njiru challenged his researchers to focus on the impact of their projects to the community.
This information from research publications, he adds, should benefit societies because they are the main stakeholders.