Location and Data Sources
Pongwe/Kidimo is found approximately 75km south of Mombasa in Msambweni district along a relatively good road which leads to Tanzania. Whilst we don’t provide an exhaustive list of all the villages within Pongwe, it is clear that there are many and that they are relatively spread out. Informal discussions and observation suggests that Shimoni and Wasini sublocations contain villages which are more accessible, have links to fishing, tourism and to a certain extent mangroves and are more feasible study locations.

We suggest that the focus of the work should occur at both villages on Wasini island (Wasini and Mkwiro) because residents are thought to be more dependent on fishing, and most tourists arriving in the area want to visit Wasini and its neighbouring marine park and reserve. However, many links between Wasini island and Shimoni village are present, as many tourist amenities and tourist buses park and pass through Shimoni to access Wasini and the neighbouring park. Furthermore, many tourist operators work from Shimoni. Finally, many resources (such as medical, water, food) need to be obtained from Shimoni and shipped back to Wasini island. For these reasons, we have provided site descriptions that include Shimoni, as well as the two focus villages on Wasini Island. The turn off from the main road leads to a dirt road which can get tricky to manoeuvre during the rainy season and it is advisable to use a 4 wheel drive. Shimoni is on the coast, whilst to get to Wasini Island, a boat is required to transport you from Shimoni pier.

Focus Groups and most Key Informants were carried out in Shimoni and hence there may be bias in information pertaining to this sublocation. However much of the information is also relevant to Wasini and we have tried to highlight where there are differences between the two sub locations.

Map showing the location of Shimoni, Wasini, Mkwiro, Vanga and the Kisite Marine Park and Reserve

Map showing the location of Shimoni, Wasini, Mkwiro, Vanga and the Kisite Marine Park and Reserve

Of the approx. 5000 people in Shimoni, 70% of them are thought to be Muslim whilst 30% are Christian. Out of the different ethnic groups the Mijikenda and Digo constitue around 90% of the Shimoni population (Key Informant Interview). The inhabitants of Wasini Island are primarily Vumba.

Demographic information for Pongwe/Kidimo (Kenya Census 2009)

Location Sublocation Male Female Total Households Area (km sq) Population density
Pongwe/Kidimo Wasini/Mkwiro 794 843 1637 295 4.84 337.89
Pongwe/Kidimo Shimoni 2077 1992 4069 965 19.63 207.3
Pongwe/Kidimo Majoreni 3679 3978 7657 1404 58.23 131.5
Pongwe/Kidimo Mzizima 3999 4178 8177 1598 72.52 112.75


Shimoni Village Profile
Starting in the 1750s, Shimoni, along with MalindiMombasa and other coastal cities and towns, was a primary, “slave holding port” for East Africa’s coastal slave trade which reached from South Africa to the Middle East. The slave holding pens were located in the natural cave systems that exist in Shimoni.

Looking across to Wasini Island from Shimoni waterfront

Looking across to Wasini Island from Shimoni waterfront

Discussions with the Assistant Chief of Shimoni sublocation provided us with some contextual information of the villages. In terms of infrastructure, the roads serving the area are dirt/mud roads and can be very bad during the rains.  A road survey has been done by the government but no road construction has yet started.

Water seems to be less of a problem here than in certain other sites. There is piped water available but most use the > 20 boreholes or 720 wells located around the area. The water is deemed to be relatively safe.

In terms of health facilities, there is only one local dispensary which is relatively short staffed (2 nurses and one 1 lab technician). Difficult cases are referred to the district hospital in Msambweni.

Institutions operating in the area include: Kenya Wilidlife Services, Kenya Revenue Authority, Navy, National Security Intelligence Service and Military Intelligence.

Local organisations include: Friends of Shimoni Forest, Shimoni Slaves Cave, Beach Management Unit, Women and Youth organisations

Dominant political parties include Jubilee and CORD

Community Leaders include: Village elders, peace committee, disaster management committee, council of elders, relief food committee and agriculture committee

Fishing is the main occupation accounting for about 60 % and is mostly left for old people as the youth venture more into tourism and other related activities. Farming taken up by about 40 %, employment 2 % and those working outside Shimoni account for about 1 %.

Farming takes place mostly during the long rains, April-July and short rains,  Sept-Nov. There is also high and low season for fishing depending on the direction of the monsoon winds which determines the roughness or calmness of the sea. There are mainly 2 seasons in the fishing calendar namely KASKAZI and KUSI (Key Informant Interview).

Savings are very low among the local community and  most, especially the elderly don’t save much. Savings done mostly by M-PESA, Bank Agents for BTB, Equity, Cooperative and KCB Banks . Credit is accessed mostly by those who are employed. Funds from government can also be accessed through Youth Fund, Women Enterprise Fund, Uwezo Fund and from county government. There are also several micro-finance institutions such as YEHU Micro-finance trust, Kenya Women Finance Trust. There are many default cases handled by the Chiefs office mainly attributed to high interest rates and inability to pay. Livelihoods mentioned include:

Bernard conducting key informant interviews in Shimoni

Bernard conducting key informant interviews in Shimoni

  • Fishermen
  • Tourism
  • Loaders
  • Businessmen
  • Hoteliers
  • Kiosks
  • Bodaboda
  • Vehicle/Boat owners
  • Boat operators/crew
  • Boat builders/repair
  • Jua Kali
  • Cross-border business (e.g., cloves, coconut, charcoal import/export)
  • Dealers/middlemen
  • Seafood processors
  • Mason
  • Plumbers
  • Electricians
  • Technical/radio phones
  • Farmers (livestock or crop)
  • Cooks
  • Mama pima
  • Mama karanga (female fish traders)
  • Water sellers
All the fisheries information below was obtained through two Key Informant interviews.

Main Species caught: Goatfish, scavenger fish, parrotfish, rays, rockfish, squid/octopus, lobster, prawns tuna, surgeonfish, barracuda, kingfish, crabs and more.

  • Highest value species is Lobster where fisherman gets approx KS 800/kg, dealer gets KS 1150/kg
  • High value species is Tuna or Kingfish where fisher gets KS 300/kg and dealer gets KS 350/kg
  • Medium value species is rabbit fish or scavengers where fisher gets KS 200/kg and dealers get KS250/kg

Main Gears: The poorer fishers use traps, fishing line, reef nets and spear gun whilst those with more capital use gill nets. Most people are using the combination of traps/fishing line/ spear guns and reef nets.

Fishing gears used in Shimoni:

  • Gill net
  • Reef net
  • Traps
  • Fishing line
  • Monophila net
  • Spear gun
  • Ring net
  • Beach seine
  • Fence trap
  • Basket traps
  • Sail lining
  • Scuba diving

There are approximately 400 fishermen within the Shimoni area, of which  198 of them are Beach Management Unit (BMU) members. There are 35 traders for Shimoni and they sell mostly in Mombasa or in Orokunda (Diani Junction). There are also approximately 20 dealers who are involved solely in processing, they collect whole octopus for processing on behalf of bigger companies in Mombasa.

There are a number of different types of registered boats involved in fishing in Shimoni: 69 canoes, 80 ngalawa (double outrigger canoe), 9 motorboats and 4 fibreglass boats.

Numbers formally acknowledged (by BMU) of involvement in Shimoni fisheries sector
Occupation Number
Fisherman 198
Dealer 33
Processor 2
Mama karanga 35
Loader 33
Boat operators 18
Tour operator 9
Hawkers 30
Net repair 15

There are two main seasons that affect the fisheries:

  • Kaskazi: Sep-March
    • High catch, all types of fish caught and artisan fishing thrives
  • Kusi: March-Sep
    • Less catch, only specific fish are available such as king fish, barracuda and para mamba, artisan fishermen are restricted
    • “Fish move due to dirty sea”
    • Too dangerous to fish for artisanal fishers. For those who own big boats (mostly from Pemba) they can catch fish whilst nobody else is and catch many fish (benefits are huge as low fishing effort elsewhere, high demand for fish and high value of catch)

There have been perceived changes in the fishery over the last 20 years. There is now thought to be more demand for fish and the value of fish has gone up. The total catch has also gone down, but due to the increasing value some perceive that people are roughly making the same amount of money. It was mentioned however, that despite earning the same, there is much less satisfaction and unhappiness linked to catching less fish than previously. Furthermore due to improvements to fishing gears and an increase in demand, there has been overharvesting. There is now high competition among buyers. The BMU and Fisheries department now enforce the following regulations:

Formal Regulations

Fish drying in Shimoni

Fish drying in Shimoni

  • Control of fishing to avoid overfishing done by the Fisheries Department
  • Spear Guns prohibited
  • Do not harvest Lobsters that are laying Eggs
  • Fishermen to report to the fisheries office before they go into the sea for fishing activities
  • Fishermen to register as members of BMU
  • Must have a license
  • Ring nets to be used only in deep sea
  • payment of registration fees
  • Fishermen to use GPS to accurately locate fishing grounds
  • Do not fish in conservation areas
Fish Landing Activities
Fish are sold directly to consumers in Shimoni, and coolers are used to transport the fish to markets and hotels in Ukunda or Mombasa. Dealers provide facilities for long storage and sale to long distance markets. Although there is an ice plant, it has limited storage and hence to preserve fish, many often result to boiling or sun drying. The deep freezers and ice boxes are given to the fish traders by processing companies like Trans-Africa Sea Harvest Crustacean or the Smart Fish company. Whilst the catch may be high, the facilities are limited in terms of storage which can lead to losses as the fish have to be taken to Mombasa or dried. Smoking and drying of fish is done to increase shelf life and this gives time to access other markets.
Information on tourism was obtained through a Key Informant Interview with a boat operator working in Shimoni. However we corroborated seasonal information with other informal interviews to highlight the inconsistencies in certain answers.

Shimoni is known for its British colonial ruins and slave caves which generates relatively large amounts of tourism. However it is the Kisite-Mpunguti Marine National Park opposite Wasini island that attracts many thousands of overseas and local tourists (thought to be over 18,000 but no proof of accuracy) per year through Shimoni. The Kenya Wildlife Service monitors activities and there is a per visitor entry fee. These fees are currently are remitted to Headquarters in Nairobi, and are not directly spent in the Shimoni area. The majority of visitors arrive on prepaid packages organised outside of the Island and outside of Shimoni. The larger operators are foreign owned.

Tourism attractions mentioned in Shimoni:

  • Snorkelling
  • Visiting of the marine parks
  • Corals
  • Dolphins
  • Slave Caves
  • Historical sites
  • Nature Walks
  • Forests
  • Sundowner cruises
  • Diving
  • Sailing
  • Fishing
  • Crocodile Watching


Dolphin trips and snorkelling trips are the most profitable, and cost 6000 KSH per person for residents. These often depart from Mombasa. Indeed, most tourism comes from Mombasa.

There are no dolphins between June and July. Just snorkeling in the park will cost 4000-5000 for residents including lunch and park fees. Boats hold approximately 20-25 people

Number of boats participating in tourism activities are now decreasing. The community is facing competition from hotels. These hotels have all the necessary documents, local boats can’t afford insurance and other documents. The boats can be very expensive to maintain, and local operators have to push the price down (lower than hotels) to ensure they get some customers. This fierce competition with hotels is thought to arise due to a lower number of tourists due to wider external factors.

Regular Process for boat trips: Go to booking office in Mombasa/Diani, this information is passed on to a local agent in Shimoni. Bus arrives in Shimoni, customers go to KWS and buy a ticket, they can then visit the park. Commission by the office is 200KS per client. Each time a boat goes into the park 500KS is also paid to the BMU office. The agent also takes a cut. Some boat operators wait in Shimoni and try to entice people directly and hence don’t need to pay the Mombasa agent a cut. Most are thought to be happy that there is tourism, no matter where from. Other benefits apart from to the boat operators include crafts (although we saw very little), fish market (tourists may buy fish). Tour guides working for the big hotels/companies are not liked as they get more money than those operating within the Shimoni area.

The most busy tourist period is thought to be in August and the least busy is in September. It is the rain that prevents people from coming. However, others have mentioned that March to July is the low season whilst December and January is the high season. It may depend on the type of tourist and the activities they take part in.
Information on Mangroves was obtained from a Key Informant interview with a member of “friends of Shimoni Forest” who are in charge of managing particular patches of mangroves in the area.

There are thought to be 5 different species of mangroves around Shimoni. The mangroves in the area are also believed to be in good condition because very few used them extensively. Since 2001, the mangroves have increased, as people are planting mangroves. They believe that if there are enough mangroves this will form some protection from the high tides and it will boost fish and crab catch. Green Ventures International (GVI) on Wasini Island in particular may have had a role to play as they have improved environmental education and awareness of mangroves.

Within the area there are 4 main (registered) groups in charge of mangroves including friends of Shimoni forest. Each of these groups is in charge of a particular patch of mangroves. Rules often involve the cutting of mangroves, for example, if someone wants to cut 10 pieces, they have to plant 40 and then it is free. This is supervised by a leader of the specific mangrove conservation area. Most are thought to respect these rules, although it is believed that some people from Pemba occasionally come to cut mangroves (but this happened a long time ago).

There is not much interest in mangroves for fuel because there is so much wood available in the forest. It is in the inland forest that there are problems with illegal logging.  Outsiders are cutting trees for timber and are often species that take a long time to grow. The forest offer far bigger trees than the mangroves and it is easier, more profitable than illegal cutting of mangroves. There are some people worried about the wood supply for Shimoni in the future because of this illegal logging. Indeed, those cutting mangroves are using this for subsistence rather than for profit.

Wasini/Mkwiro Village Profile
Houses in Mkwiro typical of the type found on Wasini Island

Houses in Mkwiro typical of the type found on Wasini Island

Wasini Island lies off the southern Indian Ocean coast of Kenya next to Shimoni. It is approximately 5 km long and 1 km across. The island is sparsely populated and undeveloped. There are no cars or roads. A site of early Swahili civilization, this coral island is occupied by the Vumba people, an indigenous group of Bantu speaking peoples who have a rich history. They speak Swahili and Kivumba and they number about 1500 (Wikipedia and 2009 Kenya Census). Mkwiro and Wasini are the two villages present on the island – at opposite ends of the island. Their history includes invasion and settlement of Arab influence from the Persian Gulf states, and from the island of Zanzibar, further south.

Wasini island is thought to have a high infant mortality rate relative to other SPACES sites in Kenya. This may be reflective of the higher apparent levels of poverty on the island.

Many of the livelihoods listed for Shimoni still apply for residents of Wasini, because there is the potential to commute to Shimoni from the island in less than 20 minutes. However this may be costly and often may require the use of a private boat as crossings times may not be convenient.

Informal interviews with a BMU member and observation suggests that there is much less livelihood diversity on the island with an increased dependence on natural resources, in particular fisheries but also to a lesser extent mangroves. Any form of agriculture will be for subsistence on the island. There are a few residents of the island who will be involved in the tourism industry and can act as guides on boats, selling of crafts on the island, or working at the local hotels on the island.

Much of the information on fisheries for Shimoni applies here for Mkwero such as species targeted, historical changes, seasonality and fish landing.  It should be noted however that Mkwero has its own particular area that it fishes, just as Shimoni does, and hence there may be some differences in rules and regulations. Within shared fishing grounds, each area will have slight variations in rules.

Mkwiro has approximately 120 BMU fishermen and 220 fishermen in total. The number of fishermen in Shimoni is decreasing, but it is increasing in Mkwiro. This is thought to be because of more occupational diversity in Shimoni and so people are going into other sectors (BMU Secretary).There are 7 fish traders currently operating in Mkwiro.

The tourism situation on Wasini island, although strongly linked to tourism activities and issues in Shimoni, is markedly different. Firstly there are fewer tourism amenities, many tourists go straight from Shimoni to the Marine Park or only spend a limited time on the island. Unless Wasini residents have boats or can afford to cross to the mainland, they may not benefit much from the tourism occurring around them.

Furthermore, on each tourist boat, in order of importance, there is one host, one captain and one crew member. Previously, no certification was required to join a boat at the entry (crew member) level. However, it is now much more difficult because of the need to have a seamanship certificate and a CPR certificate (first aid). These are not expensive but it takes time and involves a trip to Mombasa for up to three days. Most in Wasini, are thought not to want to go to Mombasa because they have things to do on the island and are used to “island life”(Boat Operator).

Nevertheless there are tourism amenities on the island, and an NGO, GVI provides a steady stream of volunteers that occasionally buy crafts on the island and provide other benefits (e.g. beach clean ups or environmental benefits), although there are some complaints about other activities (e.g. noise) (Observation and Informal Interviews).

Although entry fees to the park bypasses Wasini and goes straight to KWS, the Wasini Island BMU also can make some money as some tourists do not want to take a boat trip to snorkel in the park (which is over an hour away by dhow), but snorkel closer to the island in an area regulated by Wasini BMU (Boat Operator).

The mangrove information collated was obtained for Shimoni and not Wasini. However, observation and informal interviews suggest that those residents of Wasini Island may be more dependent on the mangroves as there are fewer other forests, and it may be more costly or time consuming to buy coal or timber from the mainland. Subsistence use of mangroves may be more prominent.