Tourism, underwater research, community fishing, marine park management and public safety in the Indian Ocean will be enhanced following the training of 46 Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) rangers and researchers in various diving courses.
The team drawn from all the 10 marine national parks and reserves was trained for three weeks in six diving courses at the Diani Marine Diving Bases in Kwale County, thanks to support from the Kenya Coastal Development Project (KCDP) funded by the World Bank.
The training of KWS rangers and researchers is part of capacity building of seven government agencies implementing the project.
KCDP has supported KWS in development of marine park management plans for Kisite Mpunguti, Malindi, Watamu as well as terrestrial parks such as Shimba Hills, Arabuko Sokoke, Tana River Primate, Boni Dodori and the Witu Forest ecosystem.
The project has also sponsored KWS staff for tertiary education related to marine and supported the development of the Sable antelope strategy, construction of Sh10 million Sheldrick Falls nature trail in Shimba Hills National Park, mapping of biodiversity hotspot and tourism infrastructure like the Sh100 million jetty in Shimoni. Previously, visitors would have to wade through muddy water during low tides to access Shimoni caves.
Speaking at the closing ceremony at the weekend, Mr Edin Kalla, the KWS Senior Assistant Director in charge of parks and reserves, noted that KWS would be able to extend the newly acquired capacity to other agencies operating in the Indian Ocean.
The function was attended by the acting Kenya Maritime Authority Director General Mr Cosmas Cherop, Kenya Fisheries and Marine Research Institute (KMFRI) Deputy Director for Finance and Administration Mr Abraham Kagwima, the KCDP Project Manager Dr Jacqueline Uku and the KWS Coastal Area Assistant Director Mr Adan Alio.
Mr Cherop called on the public using the sea to wear life jackets to facilitate search and rescue efforts in cases where boats capsize.
Mr Alio announced that 10 members of the Wasini Beach Management Unit had been sponsored to undergo the diving course at the same facility by KCDP to empower them to manage natural resources more effectively.
He noted that the community would contribute to restoration of degraded sea grasses and coral reefs after the training.
He said the training would help KWS in deploying marine park infrastructure under the sea and respond better to public calls of distress at sea. “This team will ensure that our sea is safer,” said Mr Alio.
Dr Uku challenged the rangers to use their newly acquired skills to support tourism and research work in Kenya and beyond since the training was meant to enhance public service and marine park management.
The diving training was designed to provide theoretical knowledge of physiology, practice, and safety for underwater operations, and to design and apply methods of underwater survey and environmental assessments.
Trainees were taken through different levels of the diving course including: Open Water, Advanced Open Water, Emergency First Response Course, Rescue Dives, Dive Master and Instructor Level.
For effective management of marine ecosystems, KWS rangers and researchers require specialized training in diving for underwater research, quality ecological monitoring and other operations such as deployment of sea instruments.
KWS manages 10 marine national parks and reserves along the coast.
The Diani Marine Diving Facility in Kwale County was chosen for the training based on its expertise and experience in offering Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) certified courses.
PADI is the world’s largest recreational diving membership and diver training organization, and PADI courses are certified as compliant with ISO standards for Recreational Diving Services by an independent auditor, the European Underwater Federation.
Being the first five-star diving school in Kenya, Diani Marine Diving Facility offers 5 star PADI certified diving courses and has a record of training over 15,000 divers since its establishment in 1978.
KCDP is a six-year World Bank-funded multi-sectoral development programme to the tune of US$40 million.
The project’s development objective is to promote environmentally sustainable and equitable growth among coastal populations in six counties of Lamu, Kilifi, Tana River, Mombasa, Taita Taveta and Kwale with a population of 3.5 million people. It seeks to improve effectiveness and improve revenue generation of Kenya’s coastal and marine resources.
The project’s implementing agencies are KMFRI, KWS, Ministry of Fisheries through State Department of Fisheries, Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI), Coast Development Authority (CDA), Ministry of Lands through State Department of Planning and National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA).
The activities of these agencies, within the KCDP project, are coordinated by a centralised Project Coordinating Unit (PCU) based at the KMFRI in Mombasa.
The initiative, which was launched in 2011, seeks to promote an environmentally sustainable management of Kenya’s coastal and marine resources by strengthening the capacity of existing relevant government agencies and by enhancing the capacity of rural micro, small and medium-sized enterprises in selected coastal communities.