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Connecting Marine Ecosystem Services to Human Well-being: Insights from Participatory Well-being Assessment in Kenya


The linkage between ecosystems and human well-being is a focus of the conceptualization of “ecosystem services” as promoted by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. However, the actual nature of connections between ecosystems and the well-being of individuals remains complex and poorly understood. We conducted a series of qualitative focus groups with five different stakeholder groups connected to a small-scale Kenyan coastal fishery to understand (1) how well-being is understood within the community, and what is important for well-being, (2) how people’s well-being has been affected by changes over the recent past, and (3) people’s hopes and aspirations for their future fishery. Our results show that people conceive well-being in a diversity of ways, but that these can clearly map onto the MA framework. In particular, our research unpacks the “freedoms and choices” element of the framework and argues for greater recognition of these aspects of well-being in fisheries management in Kenya through, for example, more participatory governance processes.

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The research presented in this paper formed part of a 2-year project titled “Participatory Modelling of Wellbeing Tradeoffs in Coastal Kenya (P-Mowtick)” funded by the NERC-ESRC-DFID Ecosystem Services and Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) program between 2011 and 2012. For further details, see The authors are also grateful for comments received from two anonymous reviewers.

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Correspondence to Caroline Abunge.

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Abunge, C., Coulthard, S. & Daw, T.M. Connecting Marine Ecosystem Services to Human Well-being: Insights from Participatory Well-being Assessment in Kenya. AMBIO 42, 1010–1021 (2013).

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  • Kenya
  • Fisheries
  • Well-being
  • Ecosystem services