Lamu is a collection of islands found in the far north along Kenya’s coast. For those who are able to find it, Lamu is considered to be a piece of paradise. Enclosed by the sea and due to its geographical location the island has long been saved from the influences of the modern Western world. Life continued at a slow pace.
Approximately 80% of Lamu communities depend directly or indirectly on the Indian Ocean for their livelihoods. Artisanal fishing, mangrove cutting, local tourism and transport provide a source of income to a vast majority of the population.
Once the most important trade centre in East Africa, Lamu Old Town is the oldest and best preserved example of Swahili settlement in East Africa. The town is characterized by narrow streets and magnificent stone buildings with impressive curved doors, influenced by unique fusion of Swahili, Arabic, Persian, Indian and European building styles. Social life flows out from the houses into the thoroughfares, fostering that sense of community which has been so singularly lost in many towns around the world.
"Since 2009, the Government of Kenya (GOK) has expressed plans to undertake a multipurpose transport and communication corridor known as the ‘Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia (LAPSSET) Transport Corridor. Besides a port, LAPSSET will build a railway, a road network, a regional international airport and resorts. The port will host bulk, container and general cargo docks to supply the many landlocked countries dotting East Africa. The keystone of the project is a pipeline and refinery to turn the region’s crude oil finds into cash. The idea, according to its planners, is to open Africa’s most inaccessible regions to capital investment, creating peace and prosperity in its wake.
Most obviously, the changes will be felt in idyllic Lamu, a region projected to swell from 100,000 to 1.25 million people over the next 20 years. Considering that the residents of Lamu are living a very traditional life and are highly dependent on fishing and local tourism as the major livelihood strategies, this project will undoubtedly have irreversible effects on the local communities and environs.
If completed, LAPSSET will mean big changes to local life and economics.