04 December 2018

The first Sustainable Blue Economy Conference took place in Nairobi, Kenya from November 26th to November 28th, 2018. The conference was attended by over 11,000 participants from across the world and focused on creating sustainable economic growth, ensuring healthy waters, and promoting social inclusion. Dr. Sulan Chen, SGP's International Waters Programme Advisor, launched the new “Blue Economy: Community Solutions” at the Conference, to great acclaim. SGP also participated in the conference with a main speaking event, a side event, and a community project site visit.

The publication was launched during the side event “Community-Based Blue Economy for Sustainable Development: Experiences from GEF Small Grants Programme.” It highlights twelve cases from around the world and best practices of community-based blue economy initiatives. The side event included panel-led discussions on blue economy and community action, with panelists from UNDP GEF, governments, and NGOs. 

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The side event was moderated by the Principal Technical Advisor of UNDP-GEF, Andy Hudson. GEF Secretariat representative, Chris Severin, Senior Environmental Specialist, delivered opening remarks. Panelists included Sulan Chen, SGP Programme Advisor and a number of representatives from communities in Barbados, Samoa, Mauritius and Kenya. The more than 200 participants showed great interest in SGP during the question and answer session. The presentations and discussions with local representatives demonstrated that SGP is an effective mechanism in helping communities achieve sustainable livelihoods through community-based actions.

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On Wednesday November 28th, Dr. Chen participated in the panel discussion and Thematic Session “People, Culture, Communities and Societies: The Inclusive Blue Economy”. Dr. Chen spoke on the importance of thinking globally and acting locally, and putting people and communities at the center of implementing blue economy at local level. The main findings of SGP’s new publication on "Blue Economy: Community Solutions" were shared with a broad and diverse audience.

On Wednesday afternoon, SGP National Coordinator in Kenya, Nancy Chege and her team organized a site visit to a SGP-funded project located within the Karura Forest, one of Nairobi’s urban forests. The Friends of Karura Forest (FKF) is a Community Forest Association (CFA) that received a SGP grant to build the capacity of local communities and informal settlements residing next to the forest; namely residents of Githogoro, Deep Sea, and Huruma villages. 

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The activities of Friends of Karura Forest, which started their activities in 2009, helped to engage the local and less privileged communities in protecting the forest. FKF restored access to the forest for people living around the forest and to the public at large, rehabilitated the forest to its natural state securing ecosystem services for all, and provided employment opportunities for people from less privileged communities neighboring the forest. The project engaged women, and trained some as guides/scouts and others to engage in managing an apiary and processing honey. The attendees learned about the honey-harvesting process and visited an apiary in the forest, before continuing on to visit the informal settlement of Huruma, one of the project beneficiary communities.