The SECURE Project: Securing Rights to Land and Natural Resources for Biodiversity and Livelihood in Kiunga-Boni-Dodori Reserves and Surrounding Areas in North Coastal Kenya
In March 2008, USAID/Kenya and ARD, Inc., undertook a land tenure and property rights assessment of USAID’s natural resource management and conservation programs in the northern rangeland regions and the North coast of Kenya. The assessment documented long-standing irregularities and inequities in land and property rights; economic marginalization of resident communities; and conflict between communities and stakeholders, undermining resource management and economic opportunities. The assessment provided recommendations for specific program interventions from which the Securing Rights to Land and Natural Resources for Biodiversity and Livelihood in Kiunga-Boni-Dodori Reserves and Surrounding Areas in North Coastal Kenya (the SECURE Project) was born.
The north coast of Kenya, home to Lamu Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is also home to three biologically significant nature reserves of great local, national, and global importance:
- The Kiunga Marine National Reserve, gazetted in June 1979, incorporates a 270 km² area, over 50 offshore islands, and significant mangrove, estuarine, and marine ecosystems; with notable populations of wildlife, including marine turtles, seabirds, and fish;
- The Dodori National Reserve, gazetted in 1976, covers 877 km² of important woodland and mangrove forest area that historically supported large populations of wildlife, including elephants, coastal topi, and buffalos; and
- The Boni National Reserve, gazetted in 1976, located in Ijara District contains 1,339 km² of intact coastal forest with significant concentrations of hardwoods and grasslands, and numerous keynote species, many of which are classified as vulnerable or endangered.
The region is also the ancestral homeland of two ethnic groups—the Boni and the Bajuni.
The Boni, who number only about 3,000 individuals, are traditionally hunters and gatherers, but now live in villages along the Hindi-Kiunga road on government land between the Boni and Dodori National Reserves. However, the Boni continue to depend on forest and open rangeland resources in the Dodori and Boni forests for shifting cultivation, collection of honey, plants for traditional medicine and building materials, and bush meat. Much of the land they inhabit is of low agricultural value due to low rainfall and poor soils.
The Bajuni, of Phoenician, Hamitic, and Arab decent, live along the coast and on the islands and rely heavily on fishing, mangrove harvesting, and slash and burn farming. The islands within the KMNR have historically played an important role in the lives of the Bajuni, who have used bays, inlets, and protected beaches for seasonal fishing camps. Despite the land within the Reserve being their ancestral land, the Bajuni people’s legal claim to this land remains ill-defined and vague. When the Reserve was gazetted in 1979, the Bajunis’ customary tenure and access rights to land and other resources in the Reserve were not formally defined.
Project Duration and Budget
September 2009–February 2011
Who implements SECURE?
Kenya Ministry of Lands
Kenya Wildlife Service
Where does SECURE work?
SECURE is being piloted in the following communities:
Kiunga, Kiwayu Island, Mkokoni, and the Boni-Dodori Corridor (including the villages of Busuba, Kiangwe, Mangai, Mararani, and Milimani)
What does SECURE do?
- Improves security of tenure and reduces conflict over natural assets: SECURE supports the formal recognition of customary rights of the Boni and Bajuni communities to land and natural resources inside and surrounding the Kiunga-Boni-Dodori Reserves, thus formalizing a process that can be expanded by the GoK to reduce conflict over land and resources by strengthening institutions of conflict mediation and resolution;
- Improves management of protected and biologically sensitive areas: SECURE supports the co-management of natural resources (KWS and resident communities). SECURE ensures community tenure and, using participatory methods, helps develop and implement land use plans that contribute to conservation goals and livelihood needs of the local communities; and
- Informs the policy reform process: This project pilots specific principles in the new National Land Policy and informs the policy reform process of the GoK.