Network of Women in Marine Science

Inspiring Women in Ocean Science: Amina Juma Hamza

Dr. Amina Juma Hamza is a Mangrove Ecologist with a wealth of experience exceeding 10 years. Currently serving as a Senior Research Scientist at the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute, her primary research focus revolves around the sustainable management of marine resources including the development of participatory tools aimed at ensuring the sustainable utilisation of resources.

Throughout her career, Dr. Amina’s contributions to the advancement of community-based nature solutions include the development and implementation of mangrove carbon offset initiatives, participatory blue carbon ecosystems management, and the exploration of mangrove forests’ significance in disaster risk management. She has a personal passion for working with the local communities, listening to their issues, and working towards generating solutions. Dr Amina has been involved in several mangrove research activities on the Kenyan Coast, most notably the development of the National Mangrove Ecosystem Management Plan (2017-2027).

As a co-founder of Mikoko Pamoja, the first and award-winning community carbon offset project situated in a mangrove forest in Southern Kenya, Dr. Amina has been instrumental in inspiring stakeholders towards sustainable marine resource management. The project’s core objectives include mangrove restoration, biodiversity conservation, climate regulation, and poverty alleviation for coastal communities. The resounding success of Mikoko Pamoja has led to its replication in other coastal counties in Kenya and across the Western Indian Ocean.

Furthermore, Dr. Amina is also a CO- Principal Investigator for the ongoing Going Blue Carbon project in Lamu, Kenya which has been endorsed as a Decade Action as part of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021-2030..

  1.     Tell us, what led you to pursue a career in marine/ocean science?

My inspiration towards marine science stems from unlocking and/or harnessing the full potential of marine resources in supporting the livelihoods of coastal communities. I derive satisfaction when I see marine resources being sustainably utilised.

As a native of the coastal region in Kenya, I have grown up seeing the value of marine resources to the local communities and therefore, I work passionately to create community awareness to ensure sustainable management of these natural resources working towards harmony between humans and nature.

  1.     As a marine/ocean professional, what three critical lessons have you learned? Share your insights and experience with others who aspire to become experts in this field.

There is inter and intra dependence of marine resources on the ecosystem and end users. We have proved that it is possible for the marine ecosystem to sustainably support communities dependent on these marine resources. Mikoko Pamoja project has demonstrated that dependent communities can protect, conserve and preserve the ecosystem whilst supporting rural livelihoods. I have also learnt that we need to pay attention to time, and what we can do today, there is no better time than now. Climate change is real and we need to heed the clarion call in mitigating its impact to lessen pressure on marine resources.

  1.     In celebration of the International Women’s Day theme “Invest in women, accelerate progress”, what progress do you envision for women in the Western Indian Ocean region?

Under the theme, “Invest in women, accelerate progress”, I envision women in the Western Indian Ocean region rightfully occupying their space in marine and ocean science through active and productive engagement with marine ecosystems. The impacts of exclusion are more pronounced in women and we can no longer afford to take a back seat of action.

Despite women being a key stakeholder in marine resource utilisation, there is a disparity of their participation in decision making forums. I am striving to be a voice of advocacy for women in resource management.