Cost-Benefit Assessment of Marine and Coastal Resources in the Western Indian Ocean (Tanzania and Kenya - Draft)

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Coastal resources refer to the natural resources found in coastal areas, which is useful for human today or in the coming future, these include fish, shellfish, marine mammals, seabirds and other marine organisms (seaweed, coral reefs) land, forests, coastal waters and wetlands, sand minerals, among others (Walters, 1998; Jin, 2002). These resources are crucial and important and the benefits provided by them are both widely recognized but poorly understood by the majority (Daily, 1997). What is increasing clear in the literature, however, is that the natural ecosystems are under enormous pressure around the world due to the growing demands placed on them by economies (Pagiola et al 2004, Walters, 1998). The pressure into the natural ecosystem is coming mainly from the rapid human population growth and prosperity which translate into increasing conversion of natural ecosystems to agricultural, industrial and settlement. This population growth and prosperity not only that will also translate into increased demand for ecosystem goods and services such as fresh water, fiber, fertile soil but also will increase pressure on the capacity of natural ecosystem to assimilate our waste, including air and water pollution as well as solid waste. It is thus obvious that natural ecosystem and their goods and services play a crucial role in supporting the livelihoods of the people and national economies. Yet a report by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005) suggests that these ecosystems are deteriorating worldwide, and with them the capacity to support human well-being.

It is clearly evident therefore that natural ecosystems and the services they provide are valuable, but may be an important question that often asked is how valuable? This is an important question that needs an answer because other things are valuable as well. However, one of the arguments often cited as the major reasons for our failure to conserve natural ecosystems is that we do not realize how valuable they are. The farmers for example deciding whether to burn a hectare of forest to clear it for agriculture focus on the potential crop yields they may obtain, but pay little attention the many ecological services that would disappear. Likewise the minister of finance often base his/her budget decisions solely on the basis of indicators such as GDP, foreign exchange balances, and tax receipts, in which ecosystems services which appears might only be those with market prices for example timber, logs etc. Perversely, GDP often identifies activities that destroy ecosystems as benefits, for example, cutting forest for logs, increasing fishing intensity, clearing forest to increase agricultural lands, clearing forest to allow mining extraction etc. It is on the basis of these concerns that this study is conceived to value the ecosystem and the services they provide, this will increase our knowledge of the value of ecosystems for the informed policy decisions. Maintaining ecosystem, whether through protected areas or through other means requires expenditure of resources, and there are often many competing claims on these resources. This will mean that devoting some resources to conservation of natural resources less will be available to address other pressing needs such as improving education, health or infrastructure. It is also true that conserving this natural ecosystem and the goods and services they provide may also involve foregoing certain uses of these ecosystems, and the benefits that would have been derived from those uses. It is obvious each sort of action taken on natural ecosystem will have implications on the other system. To assess the consequences of different course of action, it is not enough to know that ecosystems are valuable, we also need to know how valuable they are, and how that value is affected by different forms of management.

Asking how valuable is an ecosystems? Is also begs the question how valuable to whom? The benefits provided by a given ecosystems often fall unequally across different groups. Recent estimates of the economic value of the marketed and non-marketed ecosystem services of the coastal systems indicate a huge contribution to human welfare from the functions mentioned above plus raw materials, recreational and cultural services (Costanza, 1997). Thus this call for the need to strengthen the abilities of the country in implementing an ecosystem-based management approach (LME) so as to optimize and sustain the benefits for meeting Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the targets reached during the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD).

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