Two woman sit and forage through shallow coastal waters

Rising from the depths

Lead institution: University of Edinburgh

About Rising from the Depths:

The Rising from the Depths Network (RftD) set out to identify ways in which the submerged and coastal Marine Cultural Heritage (MCH) of Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique and Madagascar could stimulate ethical, inclusive and sustainable economic growth in the region, of benefit not only to building social cohesion and reducing poverty in individual states, but also in enhancing the value, impact and equity of development in the marine zone. Although the coastal and marine heritage of Eastern Africa is a valuable cultural and environmental resource, it remains

largely unstudied and undervalued and is subject to significant threat from natural and anthropogenic processes of change. The RftD network established a research and sustainability programme for the study of MCH in Eastern Africa, funding 27 challenge-led projects throughout the region. The network is demonstrating how MCH can directly benefit East African communities and local economies through building identity and place-making, stimulating resource-centred alternative sources of income and livelihoods, and enhancing the value and impact of overseas aid in the marine sector. The RftD Network involves 248 partners (75% from the Global South, and 25% from the Global North), and continues to publish results, lead workshops, and support the creation of additional initiatives rooted in Marine Cultural Heritage for sustainable development.

Rising from the Depths impacts so far:

It has consolidated a joint vision of marine cultural heritage in East Africa, creating a network of experts, practitioners, and community members that understand the potential of marine natural and cultural resources to improve their lives. The 27 funded projects all demonstrated this at some level. For example, In Tanzania, the Musicalizing Marine Cultural Heritage in Tanzania Project wrote, produced and filmed a music video with the local community, with the aim of balancing economic development with environmental and cultural protection through spreading awareness of the tangible and intangible MCH of Tanzania, such as coastal cultural monuments and traditional boat building, climate issues such as coastal erosion and sea-level rise, and community safety at sea. In doing so, these themes were shared throughout multiple generational groups, stakeholders and community members across Tanzania.

It has identified how traditional knowledge and regulatory systems of coastal communities need to be integrated within policies and national narratives towards the achievement of sustainable development assets;

It has empowered local experts to work with coastal community members to identify MCH, preserve it, and utilize it to improve their livelihoods (a number of projects have created tangible monetary incomes for local communities).

It has also empowered local communities, including vulnerable groups like women, youth, and elders, to explore sustainable economic endeavours, while reaffirming their role as keepers, heritage bearers, and providers within their communities. For example, the MIDA Creek, Kenya project engaged with a well-established women’s group Bidii na Kazi and supported initiatives which extended the range of alternative livelihood opportunities for women. Training in a range of initiatives (including bee-keeping which had traditionally been a male-led activity) led to new business opportunities for women. The women conceived of, designed, built and now successfully run, a traditional floating Dhow House Restaurant that also doubles as the Mida Creek Interpretation Centre. Equally, the Palm, Sand & Fish project engaged with female-led MCH practices (pottery, basketry and traditional roofing materials). The project worked with the women to develop innovative ways of improving production and sales to respond to changes in access to raw materials. The amount of basket sales for the basketry women group improved greatly. Women who had stopped producing basketry due to the perceived lack of market returned after seeing the benefits of using the new innovation for better sales.

In terms of policies, it has identified gaps and pathways to improve the existing legal frameworks and national development agendas through MCH.

Woman on beach, carries bundled sticks on her head
Fisherman organises net on the shore, Tanzania
Fisherman holding crab in Bagamoyo, Tanzania
Diver investigates shipwreck in Madagascar
Two woman sit and forage through shallow coastal waters
Two woman in Tanzania practice traditional weaving
Men in boats loaded with fish traps taken for deployment in Kenya


Important partnerships have been identified between local community members, institutions, and experts (academics, heritage practitioners) combining traditional and expert knowledge to produce the best available knowledge (which is part of the legacy work). Also, important partnerships with UNESCO in awareness-raising, capacity building and policy implementation guidance. The initiative has established a cross-border and cross-sector network of arts and humanities researchers, scientists, policy makers, UN officials, NGOs, ICT professionals and specialists working in heritage, infrastructure and the offshore industry. Key project partners include UNESCO (Headquarters and regional offices in East Africa), National Museums of Scotland, the World Monuments Fund, the Western Indian Ocean Maritime Association, the British Institute in Eastern Africa alongside local NGOs, media consultancies and research institutes.

The Rising from the Depths Network generated new knowledge about marine cultural heritage (MCH) which addressed fundamental developmental challenges in Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique and Madagascar. RftD demonstrated that MCH is not a barrier to development. Rather it is a central facet of environmental and social sustainability.

Projects centring MCH contributed to positive change in a wide range of UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) priority areas:

Over 90% of funded projects contributed to SDG 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities (many through engagement with cultural heritage and tourism). In the Sainte Luce conservation zone, Reharbouring Heritage attracted an audience of over 2000 local community citizens to celebrate their fishery skills and practice, and to advance the appreciation of a ‘no-take zone’ protecting the local lobster fishing industry, as part of the Festival of the Sea. In Mida Creek, a new revenue-generating Dhow House restaurant used local resources and embodied sustainable living heritage practice.

A fifth of projects contributed to SDG 4 (Education). The Bahari Yetu project was “educational and celebratory, in that it ran free exhibitions for schools and the public, produced multi-level open-access online outputs that recorded and promoted contemporary maritime heritage, and provided fieldwork opportunities for early-career academics and heritage professionals”

A quarter of projects contributed to SDG 5 – Gender Equality. Palm, Sand & Fish trained local women in new techniques to add commercial value to traditional heritage products. In Mida Creek, the involvement of women in economic activity usually the preserve of men is not only “slowly changing the community perspective on gender roles”, it is also directly generating income, contributing to progress against SDG 8 (below).

A quarter of projects contributed to SDG 8 – Decent Work & Economic Growth. In the Palm, Sand & Fish project, “The amount of basket sales for the basketry women group has improved greatly. Some women had stopped producing basketry due to lack of market but they have now they have started to make these crafts again after seeing the benefits of using the new innovation for better sales”.

A quarter of projects contributed to SDG 10 – Reduced Inequalities. In East Pemba, work to diversify and render a more sustainable seaweed industry will provide employment for locally marginalised groups (women and youth).

Over two thirds of the project contributed to the preservation of SDG 14 – Life Below Water – through promoting sustainable coastal activity (tourism and agriculture (including fishing). In Embracing Social Learning in Chonguene, the project drew attention to the impact of unregulated fishing on fish stocks, developing evidence to support a recommendation for a shift in government policy towards supporting traditional fishery methods, and identifying areas where harmful ring net fishing is not allowed.

One third of projects contributed to the SDG 15 – Life on Land – through community involvement with heritage resources on the coast. In Mtwapa, the project brought together National Museums of Kenya (NMK) with Mtwapa Beach Banders Operators with the aim of bridging the gap between local community members and NMK management. As a result, NMK revised its management approach to the land to listen to and learn from local heritage knowledge.

·Most of the projects delivered against multiple SDGs (Annex 1 maps the SDGs against the relevant Africa Union 2063 Goals) as evidenced in Table 1 (below). For example, a new tourist initiative at Mida Creek (SDG 9) employed local women (SDGs 5,8) and generated new revenue (SDG 9) for the local community whilst at the same time i) respecting local customs and traditions (SDG 11) and, ii) not harming the local marine and coastal environment by adopting traditional building methods and resources (SDGs 14,15). The RftD team feels that the self-reporting at individual project level often underplayed their intersectional impacts: for example, most projects self-reporting as having delivered against SDG 11, also delivered against SDG 1 (but only one project reported doing so). The fact that only one SDG target refers to cultural heritage has influenced the way projects reported on marine cultural heritage and its contribution to the SDGs.

Funded by