On 27 October 2022, Commonwealth Alumnus Dr Patience Kiyuka delivered a radio talk show on, ‘Blue economy and its opportunity for communities in Kilifi, Kenya’. This activity promoted the 2021/22 ACEF theme: Clean Energy, Air and Oceans. The radio show was designed to promote awareness of the ocean’s vital role and the importance of preserving marine life.

Headshot of Patience Kerubo Kiyuka

Dr Patience Kiyuka

According to the World Bank, the blue economy refers to the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs whilst preserving the health of the ocean ecosystem. The show included a public service announcement and a live airtime discussion with marine conservation experts: Lillian Mulupi, Program Officer at Marine Conservation, International Fund for Animal Welfare; Charles Janji Nyale, Chairperson of Kilifi County BMU Network, the Indian Ocean Water body network conflict resolution; and Professor Dr Halimu Shauri, Dean, School of Humanities and Social Science at Pwani University.

Dr Kiyuka is an infectious disease specialist at the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) Centre for Geographical Medicine Research. As a scientist, she is passionate about science communication and has been involved in implementing various science engagement projects.

Sustaining the blue economy

In April 2018, 53 world leaders, including Kenya, adopted the Commonwealth Blue Charter. The Charter coordinated a call for action to solve ocean-related problems and achieve sustainable ocean development. Against this backdrop, in 2021, the Kenyan government launched the Go Blue program, which aims to protect Kenya’s coastal ecosystems and foster a sustainable blue economy.

The opportunities of the blue economy remain largely untapped in Kenya despite its reliance on fisheries for domestic and export markets. According to a 2018 UNDP policy brief, it is estimated that fisheries account for 0.5% of Kenya’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and generate employment for over two million Kenyans through fishing, boat building, equipment repair, and fish processing. The majority of these workers live in coastal counties such as Kilifi. Kilifi county is home to two of Kenya’s Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), Malindi and Watamu.

Kilifi county has a population of approximately 4.5 million people who are mostly reliant on marine resources for employment and sustenance. Over the years, this has led to significant environmental pressures ranging from pollution, habitat degradation, and over-exploitation such as illicit harvesting of sand and illegal fishing. Furthermore, the impact of climate change through sea-level rise, ocean acidification, and extreme weather events, pose a significant threat to the socio-economic wellbeing of these communities. Therefore, to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular Goal 14: Life Below Water, advancing the blue economy and utilising the ocean’s resources in a sustainable way is a priority for the community.

Using radio to spread awareness amongst coastal communities

Radio remains the most trusted and reliable source of information for rural communities in Kenya. It is cheap, readily available, portable, and can reach many people during their daily activities. By broadcasting to local coastal communities in Kilifi, Dr Kiyuka’s show sought to raise awareness of the opportunities offered by Kenya’s blue economy and spark a debate over practical solutions that can be adapted to explore and restore the sea and coastal communities.

Dr Kiyuka worked with the local radio station, Baraka FM, to broadcast the show in the local language, Kiswahili. This ensured the content would reach a wide audience in the coastal region. The show was aired as part of the in-studio programme and live streamed on Facebook Live, which enabled audiences to access the show via social media as well.

Dr Kiyuka and colleagues in the radio studio

Left to Right: Professor Halimu Shauri, Charles Nyale, Lilian Mulupi, Patience Kiyuka and Oscar Nyoha

The radio show included a one-hour discussion on the blue economy and the opportunities it offers. The discussion was led by guest speakers, Lillian Mulupi, Charles Janji Nyale, and Professor Dr Halimu Shauri. Dr Kiyuka developed a script to guide the discussions which included questions such as, what is the blue economy and how does it contribute to the overall economy, how is the ocean contributing to sustainable livelihoods for coastal communities, how can coastal communities benefit from the blue economy, and what can be done to protect the oceans. Following discussion on the guided questions, listeners were invited to engage with the expert speakers during the live show via calls and text messages.

The recording of the live radio show was made available on the radio station’s Facebook page for a few weeks and, as of 10 November, received more than 340 views.

‘Indeed, as a community we benefit a lot from the ocean…the ocean gives us food, the ocean gets us out of poverty, it allows us to teach our kids. We are used to taking visitors to the ocean. And for sure the ocean we have specific places where we designate for mangrove. We have witnessed how important the oceans is to us as the community.’ – Radio guest Charles, Chairman of Kilifi Beach Management Unit

‘The Ocean is life to the communities here of the coastal communities’ – Radio guest Professor Shauri

‘The issue of climate change has greatly affected the fishery communities here. We have witnessed increased coral bleaching. Climate change has also caused poverty to us. Because every day we go out we expect to catch something and bring back to our families. But now we go and sometimes we don’t catch anything.’ – Radio guest Charles, Chairman of Kilifi Beach Management Unit

Dr Patience Kiyuka is a 2013 Commonwealth Distance Learning Scholar from Kenya. She studied for an MSc Infectious Diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.