Kaskazi Environmental Alliance

Kaskazi Environmental Alliance Holds Week of Events to Highlight Ecology of East African Coast

Local nonprofit organization raises awareness of the environmental issues facing the region through several events in the first week of October


San Diego, CA -- (ReleaseWire) -- 09/17/2015 --Kaskazi Environmental Alliance (KEA), a California-based nonprofit organization that aims to increase awareness, stewardship and conservation of East Africa's coastal resources, will hold a series of fund raising events the week of October 1-4 in San Diego and at the Ocean Institute in Dana Point. The events will feature educational opportunities, keynote speakers, panel discussions, live performances of African dance and film screenings on relevant topics.

"We are thrilled to be able to hold this series of events to highlight some of the very important issues in the East African coastal region and share them with the community," said Mahmoud Khamis Jillo, president of the KEA. "This is a great opportunity for public officials, business leaders and other community members to learn about how we can all take steps to assist conservation efforts that restore the region's diverse marine and coastal environments. The survival of local species as well as local people depends on our efforts today."

The mangrove swamps, for example, play a vital role in the coastal ecology, providing a barrier against tidal waves and a habitat for countless species of microscopic organisms, cuttlefish, insects and birds. Similarly, coral reefs also provide an essential protective barrier as well as a complex food chain that supports both marine and human life. Traditionally, the coastal people in Kenya and Tanzania harvest and trade mangrove poles as firewood and building materials, and collect sea food when the reefs are exposed at low tide. After centuries of such use, however, and with increasing coastal populations, both environments are greatly endangered and are losing the ability to regenerate themselves, placing the coast and its marine and human populations at risk.

Although mangrove forests occupy just a fraction of the earth's surface, they are some of the most carbon-rich habitats on the planet. On average, they have double the living biomass of tropical forests overall. Unfortunately, about 225,000 metric tons of carbon sequestration potential is lost each year with the destruction of mangroves.

The week begins with the KEA Dhow Festival USA 2015, taking place Friday, October 2 at the Maritime Museum of San Diego. Attendees will be swept up in centuries-old East African culture and have the opportunity to view "The Mtepe 'Shungwaya' Sails Again: A Tribute to the Boat-Builders of Lamu," a documentary film written and produced by East African history expert, Professor Abdul Sheriff of Zanzibar, and Kenyan filmmaker Kenny Mann. The film illustrates the building of a model mtepe (em-teh-peh), a traditional trading boat that used to sail the coastal waters but is now extinct. There will also be live performances featuring the unique taarab music of Zanzibar, along with African drummers and dancers.

On Saturday, October 3, the Harambee Community Celebration & Award Ceremony will feature the presentation of the Kiti Cha Enzi (Chair of Power) Award. This high-backed chair, made of wood with inlaid bone, ivory and mother-of-pearl, is a reminder of the complex international history of trade and conquest along the Swaheli Coast, which once commanded trade routes across the Indian Ocean to Persia, India and China. The presentation will be accompanied by live performances of taarab music. This event, to be held at the Speckles Pavilion in San Diego's Balboa Park, is free and open to the public.

On Sunday, October 4, the Africa USA Ocean Celebration at the Ocean Institute in Dana Point will feature keynote speaker Dr. Carl Safina, a marine ecologist and host of "Saving the Ocean" on PBS. There will also be a panel discussion and a photographic exhibit featuring dhows, which are traditional vessels used up and down the East African coast.

"Dr. Safina is a world-renowned ecologist who is one of the world's top experts on marine life and conservation," said Jillo. "It is an honor to have him at our Sunday event and lead what is sure to be an insightful discussion."

KEA has a number of educational initiatives in its vision, including an exchange program involving cultural experiences shared between students in East Africa and California. Additional plans include a sister school program, with La Jolla High School students able to use remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) for underwater ocean exploration. There may also be future student travel exchanges.

For more information on the upcoming events, including times and locations, visit http://www.keainc.org.

Please note that this press release has been revised from its original content.