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COBEC - Community Based Environmental Conservation

1) In General

COBEC ("Community Based Environmental Conservation") is a Kenyan environmental organization that includes a big community and education in their projects along the coastal region of the East African country. They protect the susceptible marine ecosystem (for example by organizing beach clean-ups and planting mangroves in badlands) and they help the endangered sea turtles by protecting and restoring nesting beaches, researching and relaying the information to other people and rescuing turtles which were found by fishermen.
In short, COBEC's main goal is "to facilitate and empower local people to manage and conserve resources within the social, cultural and economic context of their communities".

2) Involvement of Community

In order to achieve their goals it is decisive that individuals and organizations are brought together so that they can persuade the governments of the importance of environmental conservation and secure habitats. Working together, it's more likely to come up with acceptable long-term solutions. The society is responsible to put the decisions of the authority in effect.

3) Involvement of Education

Another relevant thing in COBEC's work is to include education. Knowledge and awareness are the basis of success, however, that's often not enough. Therefore, COBEC imparts the information involving the people into actions. If this was not done, some activities respectively participation would possibly be hindered due to poor awareness of information and/or bad coordination.
COBEC pays visits to schools, organizes workshops, prepares video presentations and produces newsletters, stickers, leaflets, posters and more to reach as many people as possible. Because of their effort, they impart kindness, responsibility and respect for humans, animals and the environment. COBEC also supports bright students financially so that they have a chance to pursue education in spite of poverty thus making COBEC a social and environmental organization that does its part to make the world a better place.

4) Deficient Education, Effects and Prevention

A lack of education is related to environmental problems: Overfishing is a big topic in Kenya just like in many other countries all around the world (see page Fishing), habits along the coast are destroyed because they seem useful to some people. This ends in a vicious circle of a never-ending struggle of worse living conditions for habitants at the cost, poverty and environmental abuse. COBEC wants to prevent this by providing income generating opportunities for the residents in order to improve the environmental and social situation, conserve resources and establish sustainability. They have helped to initiate activities such as beekeeping and ecotourism development.

5) Coastal Regions

The coasts are a vital habitat to many species and therefore COBEC's aim is the restoration of coastal habitats worldwide. They ensure a balanced ecosystem by protecting and rehabilitating destroyed areas. As said before this big challenge includes projects like beach clean-ups and mangrove planting. Costal wetlands, mangroves but also beaches are decisive for this ecosystem on which thousands of species depend. Sophisticated management is necessary to make a change in the long run. Pollution, overpopulation and modified natural systems are threatening the region, the animals but also the humans because the systems serve as buffers to protect the population from coastal storms, however, this doesn't work if the environmental cycle is disturbed to a certain extent. Something has to be done about that!
COBEC has already planted over one million seedlings in Malindi district together with the community.

6) Sea Turtle Conservation

Another big topic is Sea Turtle Conservation. Sea turtles are prioritized for conservation according to various conventions. COBEC focus on protecting and restoring nesting beaches, researching and relaying the information to other people and rescuing turtles which were found by fishermen. COBEC works together with them so that accidentally caught sea turtles are collected and soon released back into the sea. Before this is done, data is recorded and measurements are taken for research purposes. Later on, this data will be analyzed. COBEC also has a program called "beach patrol": Patrolmen try to find nesting turtles on the beach and they observe them until hatchlings come out.

7) Volunteering with COBEC

Volunteers play a decisive role in COBEC's efforts whether they are there to learn and getting field experience or as volunteer professionals. The mangrove planting actions which take place up to four times a year and the clean-ups would not be possible if there was no support by honorary members. Even sea turtle conservation requires dedication of many volunteers who collect accidentally caught turtles, release them, record data, analyze it and patrol on the beach to detect nests and control them.

8) Ecotourism Development

Volunteers and the local community are working on the development of ecotourism and the introduction of new environmentally friendly facilities such as canoe riding and bird watching. Volunteers help developing guiding programs and identifying channels that can be used for tours. COBEC's volunteers are also involved in crab and snake farming. Skills like cage construction and renovation, crab/snake stocking, feeding, hunting for food and more are taught to those who don't have experience yet but there are also participating people with competence. Educating visitors and tourists is also very important.
COBEC tries to comply with the requirements and wishes of the tourists. Old buildings serve as monuments that attract visitors. In cooperation with the National Museums of Kenya these sites are modified and made accessible. Of course, gastronomy is also considered when the system has to be adjusted to the desires of the tourists and therefore the restaurants have a high standard and they are up to date.

9) Volunteer Logistics

COBEC takes care for the comfort of its volunteers. There are police patrols and even police stations in both project areas to ensure the security. There are also some places where the helpers can listen to local and international music. Sometimes on the weekend, bands perform their songs live. Shops, supermarkets, hotels and restaurants are available in the area. The hotels are cheap but they have a high standard, the rooms are cleaned regularly, they are equipped with mosquito nets and kitchen appliances are usable. One of the most important points is the closeness to the ocean where the volunteers work.

Interesting links:
Support COBEC's mangrove planting project
COBEC official website
COBEC promotion video
COBEC on facebook