Example of successful symbiotic relationship between humans and the environment: Beneficial interaction of mangroves, Dabaso creek and the local community

Dr. Melckzedeck K. Osore
Published: 20 July 2021
Last edited: 20 July 2021
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The shores of Mida Creek lies around 100 kilometers north of Mombasa (Kenya) and adjacent to the Arabuko Sokoke Forest. Mida consists of marine and coastal ecosystems that comprise coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangrove forests, which are crucial for the livelihoods of the local coastal community. Coral reefs provide food and income to the communities and other goods and services of strategic importance to the economy including, tourism, fisheries, and coastal protection.


In 2014-2016, the Dabaso Creek Conservation Group (DCCG) received a grant by the community development program Hazina ya Maendeleo ya Pwani (HMP) under the World Bank. The funds were used for construction of a resource center, expansion of the kitchen/restaurant area and extension of the boardwalk. DCCG is a community based organization located in Watamu area at the Village of Dabaso.


East and South Africa
Scale of implementation
Coastal forest
Marine and coastal ecosystems
Access and benefit sharing
Coastal and marine spatial management
Ecosystem services
Fisheries and aquaculture
Sustainable livelihoods
Other theme
Community service
Land and Forest degradation
Loss of Biodiversity
Ecosystem loss
Unsustainable harvesting incl. Overfishing
Sustainable development goals
SDG 1 – No poverty
SDG 3 – Good health and well-being
SDG 5 – Gender equality
SDG 8 – Decent work and economic growth
SDG 14 – Life below water
Sendai Framework
Target 2: Reduce the number of affected people globally by 2030
Target 3: Reduce direct disaster economic loss in relation to GDP by 2030
(I)NDC Submission
Business engagement approachDirect engagement with associationsIndirect through financial institutionsIndirect through governmentNDC Submission


Dabaso, Kilifi, Kenya


  • Mangroves have been used by the community around Dabaso from time immemorial for construction material, firewood, medicine, and many other purposes. Convincing the community to prevent the cutting of mangroves in order to reduce shoreline erosion and other detrimental effects on the environment was a challenge. 
  • Dumping of plastic containers, food remains from the restaurant and waste materials after maintenance work posed great threat to the environment. 
  • Location of lavatories in the middle of the mangrove forest was a challenge. DCCG addressed this by constructing toilet facilities on the mainland away from the mangroves. 
  • Occasional scarcity of seeds (propagules) for planting new mangroves.
  • Food would get finished due to overwhealmingly high number of guests arriving from nearby hotels without prior arrangement.  


  • Individual community members.
  • Members of cultural groups, through performing traditional dances to entertain the guests.
  • Schools in the neighbourhood have regular access to the DCCG training centre.
  • Canoe owners make an income ferrying tourists to the mangroves.

How do the building blocks interact?

All the building blocks interact in parallel.

DCCG has benefited immensely from collaboration with national government agencies as well as local and international NGOs. The Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) offers technical advice on fabrication of suitable crab cages, training on appropriate method of replanting mangroves, collaborate in seeking development grants from regional and global partners, providing scientific field guides for translation into local language etc.


Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) protects mangroves against indiscriminate destruction by developers and construction workers, boat users, fishers etc. guards mangroves from misuse by wood-loggers visitors and even the local people. 


Students from elementary schools, colleges and universities all over Kenya visit Dabaso every month for study trips and excursions. They get to learn about mangroves, their cultural values and usage through lectures from members of DCCG and the local people. Under the guidance of DCCG, the local community participates in environmental protection activities such as beach clean-ups and planting of not only mangroves but also indigenous terrestrial trees that grow along the coastal zone. 


  • Agreements with the management of tourist hotels located in Watamu area and Malindi town to place the Crab-Shark restaurant in the tourists visit itinerary.
  • Contribution to the development of schools and other community amenities around Dabaso and Watamu such as dispensaries. Schools are allocated special days to visit the DCCG and learn more about the importance of mangrove, crab cage farming and conservation and protection of the coastal environment.
  • Youth are gaining practical experience and knowledge in coastal environment protection and conservation. DCCG members are invited to visit similar areas in Malindi, Kilifi, Mombasa and Kwale to teach fellow youths how to empower themselves and earn a living though a similar approach.


Dr. Melckzederk K. Osore

Protecting the marine life of Dabaso and Mida Creek by living amidst the mangroves 


Part of the success story about DCCG began in the late 1990s when researchers from Firenze University (Italy) led by Prof. Marco Vannini and Prof. Giuseppe Messana visited the Kenya coast. They established a collaborative research with the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) under the guidance of Dr. Renison Ruwa and three young upcoming researchers, namely James Mwaluma, Diana Anyona and Melckzedeck Osore.  The team identified Dabaso as a suitable area for research on crabs and infestations of isopods on mangrove roots. The researchers used to camp at Watamu and work day and night studying the migration of crabs and their interaction with mangroves. The local youths, some of them young employees of the tourists hotels in Watamu, used to assist by guiding the researchers in the mangrove forest and intertidal zones while identifying various crabs species and observing their behaviour. The results yielded much knowledge, which was later published in various scientific journals and also presented as Masters and PhD theses for a number of Kenyan and Italian researchers.


Benjamin Karisa, one of DCCG leaders recalls, “As a small boy in the early 1990s, I used to watch in amazement as researchers from Belgium, Italy and KMFRI spent a lot of time observing the movement of crabs in the sand and mangroves for many weeks. Their attempt to speak to us children in broken Kiswahili used to amuse me very much. I didn’t realize that I was subconsciously learning and understanding how the crabs and mangroves interact and I would one day become an expert”. 


The local community recognized the importance of Dabaso and the wider Mida Creek as a possible stop-over location for researchers and established a small pontoon in the intertidal zone where they would camp and assist the scientists. Thereafter, the board walk was linked to the first restaurant constructed in the middle of the mangrove trees. The facility built by DCCG has become very popular for hosting social functions such as weddings, giving lecture to students, a preferred meeting venue for government institutions and NGOs, entry point of boat riding for tourists and a spectacular scenery for bird watching as well as for enjoying a drink or a meal of crab-samosa and other coastal delicacies as they observe the sun setting into the Indian Ocean.

Contributed by

Melckzedeck Osore Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI)

Other contributors

Dabaso Creek Conservation Group