Blog Post

Safeguarding Lamu Safi (Clean Lamu)

Presently, one of the most apparent community challenges for Lamu Old Town is the lack of education pertaining to the historic sites and monuments. Many local people have never visited them, and even if they have visited a site, it was usually for an event not related to historic relevance. For the newer generations, there is lack of interest in the history or the location of the various sites of Lamu Old Town and its surrounding areas.

Among the many challenges in safeguarding is the fact that a majority of the important sites are located on private property. The owners of these properties are not required to up keep or adhere to national or international laws for safeguarding heritage. This adds to the lack of interest that many community residents have for the sites, especially the younger generations. They do not know the history or significance of the sites, and they like others are only interested in the cash rewards. Therefore, this ignorance has led to the destruction of sites by selling of land and structures, inappropriate use of the monuments by dwellers, trash dumping, building on top of designated sites and monuments, as well as looting.

Prior to Lamu Watch Day, four historic sites and monuments within Lamu Old Town were identified as at-risk sites by the 2014 Lamu Watch Day Committee: the eighteenth-century Wet Stone (Kinoo) from Oman in the Kinooni district, the Tomb of Mwenye Mui Zahid Mngumi (Town Patron and builder of Lamu Fort) in the Langoni district, the fourteenth-century Pillar Tomb in Gadeni district, and the Mwana Hadie Famau Tomb (Saint of Lamu) in Mkomani district. These historic sites were in need of immediate assessment and clean-up. The National Museum of Kenya Lamu Museums Conservation Office, with the assistance of the Kenyan Red Cross Lamu Branch and Lamu Tour Guides Association, organized a mission to assess, document, and clean the sites.

These heritage sites have been encroached upon by residential dwellings and/or littered with trash. The clean-up was publicized to the community and national media to encourage the community stewardship of the sites. During Watch Day, the community as well as tourists were able to visit and hear the historical significance of the newly clean sites during free town tours lead by the Lamu Tour Guides Association for Lamu Watch Weekend. National Museums of Kenya Lamu Museums is current working with the Lamu County Ministry of Trade, Tourism, and Culture and Lamu Tour Guides Association to provide training to the registered local tour guides as part of the Watch proposal for capacity building. As a result of the Watch, National Museums Kenya and the Lamu county government are organizing to strategically develop a plan to keep the World Heritage Site and its surrounding heritage sites protected and clean. This also includes installing markers and plaques on the historic sites and monuments.