Chonjo magazine was launched in 2006 at the occasion of the Lamu Cultural Festival in November of that year. We began as Lamu Chonjo, a magazine featuring news and information about Lamu, Kenya, an island community off the north coast of Kenya.
Our first issue celebrated life in Lamu: Its annual cycle of festivals that showcase the community’s religious and artistic traditions, its pull on contemporary artists who come to find inspiration for their art and a portrait of a historical character, Muhamadi Kijuma (1855-1945), known for his poetry, music, and woodworking craftsmanship. Celebrating Lamu was not a task, it was a joy.
In our subsequent issues, the Chonjo editorial team began to examine issues that endanger the social fabric of the community and threaten its fragile marine environment. We have followed national development projects like the proposed port in Lamu port, environmental issues like protecting Lamu’s water catchment area in the Shela sand dunes, and social issues like the rise of heroin use among the youth in Lamu.
“Chonjo” means alert and ready in Kiswahili, Lamu’s mother tongue. It is a term heard often on the streets here. Chonjo indicates a relationship between two or more people working together to achieve a mutual end. The term could be used when people are engaged in lifting a heavy object or any other activity where more than one person is involved. “Chonjo?” (are you ready?). Answer: “chonjo!”
In 2009, the focus of the magazine grew to include the north coast of Kenya, from Watamu and Malindi in the south to Lamu in the north. We adopted the name Chonjo: Lamu, Malindi and the North Coast to acknowledge our broader focus.
Our feature articles cover a diverse range of subjects from preserving cultural heritage to eating out, from sanitation to dhow excursions, and from conserving marine life to travel tips. We also have regular columns devoted to history, the arts, fishing and sanitation plus tide tables and moon calendar, a local directory and community notice board. From time to time, Chonjo includes profiles of individuals who have contributed to enhancing the quality of life in the area.
Chonjo’s aim is to encourage a readership of civic-minded individuals who wish the region to develop while preserving our fragile coastal environment. UNESCO’s recognition of Lamu as a World Cultural Heritage Site for its ‘outstanding value to humanity’ is also a reminder of the need to make wise as well as innovative decisions about our social and economic development in order to preserve the cultural identity of the region. We at Chonjo believe that knowledge empowers people.
Who we are
Chonjo was started by a group of civic-minded individuals living in Lamu who understand the need for regular access to information in order to participate in wise decision-making for the development of the area. We believe that information is the key to making responsible decisions in our lives, whether they are decisions concerning business, town planning, education, health and safety, family life or simply leisure activities.
Lamu Chonjo was initiated by a community-based organization: Chonjo Community Action Group (CCAG), which launched the magazine and supported its beginnings. Later, Chonjo Publishers, a private company was formed to continue the work begun.