How is Kilwa Kisiwani Preserving its Ruins

The proactive measures taken by the locals

By CyArk

Overlooking the water in Kilwa Kisiwani (2018-12) by CyArkCyArk

Adaptation efforts have gone some way to address the impacts of climate change on the Ruins of Kilwa Kisiwani.

Kilwa Kisiwani infographic mangrovesCyArk

Protecting the structures from erosion

This includes the construction of a defensive wall below the mosque and the replanting mangrove forests along the coastline. This natural defence reduced the power of the waves and decreases the rate of erosion. 

Surveying the Site of Kilwa Kisiwani (2018-12) by CyArkCyArk

Utilising local community

As the daily custodians of the site, the local community played a central role in this response ensuring the ongoing protection and monitoring of the mangroves, and protecting the site from quarrying.

Learn about seawall constructions from the expert:

Mercy explains seawall construction, From the collection of: CyArk
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Site Manger, Mercy

The ruins of Gereza Fort in Kilwa Kisiwani (2018-12) by CyArkCyArk

Global support

The response to the deterioration of the site was swift and global. Funding from the USA, Japan, France and Norway stabilised walls and consolidated the Gereza structure. 

Documenting the Great Mosque in Kilwa Kisiwani (2018-12) by CyArkCyArk

A defensive wall was also built along the top of the beach below the Malindi Mosque to reduce the erosive power of the waves.

Walking towards Gereza Fort in Kilwa Kisiwani (2018-12) by CyArkCyArk

Consistent management practices

More consistent management practices also ensured the day-to-day maintenance and consolidation of the key structures.

Walking Towards Water (2018-12) by CyArkCyArk

These efforts were not limited to the heritage structures. They also focused on improving the quality of life and wellbeing of the local community by restoring the water reservoir which provides much of the drinking water for Sono Mnara.

Laser Scan of the Arches in Kilwa Kisiwani's Great Mosque (2018-12) by CyArCyArk

Safe from the 'World Heritage Site in Danger List'

In 2014, the World Heritage Committee acknowledged these considerable efforts and removed Kilwa Kisiwani and Songo Mnara from the World Heritage in Danger List.

Setting up Laser Scanner Outside the Gereza Fort in Kilwa Kisiwani (2018-12) by CyArkCyArk

Part of a global movement

The adaptive measures taken at Kilwa Kisiwani reflect a wider global move in the preservation sector. Climate change is forcing the heritage community to rethink how it preserves sites. Traditional adaptation techniques like day-to-day maintenance are becoming more important as the weather becomes more extreme.

Mangrove treesCyArk

Other more proactive measures like defensive walls are being built at coastal sites around the world. Sometimes, situations require natural solutions like the planting of mangrove forests along the shoreline at Kilwa Kisiwani.

Using LiDAR techiniques inside of Kilwa Kisiwani (2018-12) by CyArkCyArk

The importance of documentation

Even with these adaptations, it will not be possible to save everything so documentation is very important. Techniques like laser scanning and photogrammetry allow us to record these sites and structures in precise detail. 

Looking out over Kilwa Kisiwani (2018-12) by CyArkCyArk

These records are a permanent record of these special places but can also be used by local heritage professionals as a baseline to monitor the ongoing impacts at sites. 

Neema TeshaCyArk

"If we go on as what we are doing now everybody is neglecting the effect of climate on their environment, it will disappear. But if we start measures on how to mitigate the effects that are impacted on their heritage maybe we can save what's remaining up to now.” - Neema Tesha 

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Great Mosque - Kilwa KisiwaniCyArk

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Discover how CyArk uses 3D documentation to empower local experts.

Find out more about ICOMOS' efforts to increase engagement of cultural heritage in climate action here.

Credits: Story

Dr William Megarry, ICOMOS, and Lecturer in Archaeology, School of Natural and Built Environment, Queen’s University Belfast.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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