“In Kenya, local communities understand their local resources better than anyone else”

Josphat M.M.

Mangroves, play a significant ecological role as they provide habitats for birds, breeding grounds for many fish as well as protection against storms, floods and erosion. Mangrove forest also act as important carbon sinks because they have higher amount of biomass when compared to terrestrial tropical forest. Preventing mangrove deforestation will reduce emissions impacts of millions of tons of carbon dioxide gas per year, detailed Titus Kipruto, Environmental studies, 25, Nairobi, Kenya. Who became interested in Mangroves after he watched a youtube video showing how local communities at the Kenyan coast are benefitting from mangrove conservation activities which are directly contributing to their livelihoods and well being.

Kenya, with its weather diversity and colorful metropolis, is one of the most important locations for Mangroves forests. They cover about 61,271 hectares (151,403.9 acres) representing approximately three per cent of the natural forest cover or less than one per cent of the national land area. About 59 per cent of these forests occur in Lamu County, according to the government’s National Mangrove Ecosystem Management Plan 2017-2027.

In 2014 the Kenya Marine and fisheries institute came up with an initiative for a carbon sink project , and proposed a partnership concept to the Gazi bay villages. It was a challenge to sensitize the communities since for decades the villages of Gazi bay Coaly County have used Mangroves resources for a multitude of uses. People have used Mangroves to make firewood, to build houses and furniture. At first, the community was not aware of the importance of Mangroves and were not willing to accept the project, but now a lot of people is engaged, especially women and they are all benefited from mangrove planting and restoration, revealed Hafsa Mohamed Zuga, Resident of Gazi Village.

“In Kenya, local communities understand their natural resources better than anyone else”. This indigenous knowledge is what we tapped into order to foster mangrove conservation in Gazi bay. Says Josphat Mwamba Mtwana, project coordinator of the Mikoko Pamoya Project (Kenya Forest Service, KFS) highlighting that collaboration through partnerships are a key to protect local families from hazards, involving coastal communities and local & international organizations as the Kenya Marine and fisheries institute, Bangor University and WWF to protect and restore Mangroves.

Kenya, store miles of Mangrove Forest, the coast is naturally defending from sea storms; more than 1,500 tons of carbon per hectare is stored beneath the forest. This is naturally protecting families and reducing the risk of tsunamis and other hazards. Disasters affect community members differently, often impacting elders and children more severely. Nature-based solutions can be implemented and sustained through creative strategies that support close collaboration information sharing and conservation actions among growing networks of women and youth.

There are various women and youth groups engaged in mangrove seedlings replanting, rehabilitation and conservation programs at the creeks. Residents of Gazi bay in Kwale county, Kenya are also participating in payment for ecosystem services framework which is a mechanism for creating incentives to manage natural resources, address livelihood issues and provide sustainable financing for conservation.

In 2019, the Kenya Forestry Services started leading the restoration initiative “Residents to restore 10,000 hectares of Mangrove forest by the end of the year”, and is partnering with Kenya Marine and Fisheries Institute, The Nature Conservancy and Northern Rangeland Trust. 

The Nature Conservancy Project strategy leader George Maina said the partnership will boost the chances of success in the initiative. “We are aware that there have been ongoing conservation efforts in the past which have been largely unsuccessful because of the communities may not have known which mangroves to plant and where to plant them,” he said.

Kenya Forestry Services officer James Omwenga said it was important to ensure that the mangroves that are grown, thrive. “It is key for the communities to be aligned with conservation issues because they are the ones who directly benefit from the blue economy opportunities provided by mangroves and they will also suffer if the process is not done right,” detailed Omwenga. Amenya Ochieng, The Star, June 10.

Since Kenyan local communities largely depend on mangroves for their livelihoods, policies such as bans on all harvesting activities cannot be applied effectively without examining the consequences for local subsistence communities. This calls for a harmonious balance and integration of conservation and development through programs that supports the sustainable utilization of mangrove resources while enhancing biodiversity conservation and ecosystem integrity. This implies that international organizations and other private donors can support collaborative and participatory approaches in conservation that will lead to the ownership of the resources by stakeholders. Such approaches include the emerging incentive-based conservation strategies such as those being implemented at Gazi bay in Kenya where frameworks which are a mechanism for creating incentives to manage natural resources, address livelihood issues and provide sustainable financing for conservation are currently being applied and seem to be working. Mentioned Titus Kipruto, Environmental studies, 25, Nairobi Kenya.

There are still more efforts that can help us thrive together as species addressing climate change in a resilient way, using sustainable technologies and nature-based solutions, engaging other coastal communities, following Kenyan local organization strategies that help sustain economic activities and livelihood provisions among the Kenyan coastal communities who benefit from a variety of mangrove natural resources that are harvested to support local economies.

Kenyan coastal communities are already aware of the importance of Mangroves and know that collaboration is a key to protect them and in consequence to protect the coastal families from the severe impacts of climate change, putting together the indigenous knowledge based on nature and the scientific expertise of local and international organizations, resilient actions are being developed with good results.

Let’s all start supporting Mangrove protection and restoration efforts from any sector or place in the world we are!

“Taking care of Mangroves is the smartest way to protect humanity…If people protect nature, nature protects people”.

#Mangroves #NatureProtectsPeople #ClimateChangeAwareness #ResilientActions #Kenya