Coastal East Africa
In 2009, the World Bank reported that the annual per capital incomes in Mozambique and Tanzania were US$ 365 and 400 respectively with Kenya at a higher US$ 770. Currently, more than 20 million people live along the Coastal East Africa shoreline and this number is expected to double before 2030. Their survival is dependant on the regions natural resources which are healthy forests, rivers, mangroves, reefs and oceans.
Over the past ten years, global demand for the region’s abundant and often undervalued natural resources led by Europe, Asia and particularly China has resulted in trade that is not only unsustainable but sometimes also illegal. Coastal East African countries are therefore losing their valuable natural assets including much needed revenue that could help tackle poverty. They are losing valuable natural assets to Europe, Asia and China, mainly due to insufficient resources to effectively control trade. Moreover, it is the poorest communities who suffer the most when these resources are degraded or destroyed.
These problems are having a regional knock-on effect. For example, timber production in Tanzania grew by an astounding 1,400 per cent between 1997 and 2005, with most of the raw hardwood being exported to China. Between 2004 and 2005, it is estimated that the country lost US $ 58 million due to illegal trade. As soon as Tanzania took action to halt the free-for-all, trade spiked in neighbouring Mozambique – underscoring why it is so important for the Coastal East African countries to work together and address such common concerns.
Forest conversion has also wreaked havoc on the region’s biodiversity. “Slash and burn” clearing has destroyed huge tracks of ancient coastal forest and increased human-wildlife conflict. This situation is being exacerbated by unregulated investment in commercial agriculture throughout the coastal region. Recognizing the importance of food security and potential for development, WWF is calling for a more integrated policy approach to ensure that land and water intensive investments are more sustainable and benefit the host country.
Off the coast, foreign fishing vessels from Asia and Europe exploit the countries’ rich fisheries at the expense of artisanal fishermen. While these foreign fleets are often granted access by the Coastal East African governments, there is little or no capacity to monitor their catch or the impacts that overfishing is having on the local coastal communities and the marine environment.
Permeating all of these challenges is the impact of global climate change, which is increasingly evident in the region. Parts of Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique are already suffering from unpredictable rainfall, persistent drought and extreme weather events. Traditional livelihoods and coping strategies are being severely affected and the situation is expected to get worse as climate models predict increased temperatures and incidents of floods, drought, cyclones and coastal erosion.
The reality is that the combination of unsustainable management and uncoordinated externally driven resource extraction, exacerbated by climate change, threatens to destabilize the region’s development and natural resource base.
- helping coastal communities sustainably manage natural resources for their own benefit;
- strengthening national legislation and management systems for sustainable fisheries and logging operations;
- improving habitat and species conservation; and
- developing effective marine protected areas.