With mangrove conservation, Kenya’s coastal communities plant seeds of sustainable ‘blue growth’ |

Mangroves are tropical marine forests with great potential. They protect the coast from erosion and high tides; and provides food and shelter for a wide variety of wildlife, and habitat for commercially important fish and shellfish species.

They also fight climate change: United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) estimates that global mangroves sequester in roots, stems and in soil up to 22.8 million tons of carbon per year.

While they provide valuable services to people and the planet, mangroves are struggling. Along with the effects of climate change such as sea levels and rising temperatures, mangroves are being depleted because their timber is valuable and valued by coastal communities as a source of timber for construction. construction, fuel and even medicine. Pervasive coastal urbanization and unsustainable farming and aquaculture practices are among the long-standing challenges.

UN and Kenya join forces

But not all hope is lost! Sometimes, innovative partnerships can lead to sustainable solutions. Over the past three years, agencies from the United Nations, the Government of Kenya and other key partners have collaborated to launch a number of community-based conservation projects. They aim to help tackle poverty and bring climate, biodiversity and local-level benefits to communities on the Kenyan coast.

Together with UNEP, the Kenya Forest Service, the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute and partners recently inaugurated Vanga Green Forest Project in Vanga Bay in coastal Kwale County (south of Mombasa), a groundbreaking initiative to exchange carbon credits from mangrove conservation and restoration.

Vanga Blue’s sister project located in nearby Gazi Bay. Launched two years ago, the first initiative of its kind, called Mikoko Pamoja (‘Mangroves Together’), which raises funds by selling carbon credits to people and organizations wishing to reduce their carbon footprint, through the Scottish charity ACES. This project supports mangrove planting and conservation. Payments for ‘mangrove carbon’ are used to benefit local communities.

Mwanarusi Mwafrika, coordinator of Vanga Blue Forest, told UN News that some animals such as manatees (marine mammals that are cousins ​​to similarly threatened manatees) have started to disappear. Now, they are back. In addition, fishermen report larger catches. This is due to the environmental conservation efforts that we have made together with the local people. “

Amiri Juma Amiri holds seaweed harvested from her farm in Kibuyuni village, Kwale county, Kenya, with support from the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Institute.

UN / Kenya

Amiri Juma Amiri holds seaweed harvested from her farm in Kibuyuni village, Kwale county, Kenya, with support from the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Institute.

Green forest, green growth

The Vanga Green Forest Project focuses on preserving trees, as local people have planted seedlings. It benefits about 9,000 residents of the villages of Vanga, Jimbo and Kiwegu. The villages form ‘VAJIKI’, a community forest association that oversees 460 hectares of forest land. The village of Jimbo has established a nursery with 30,000 surviving mangrove seedlings.

Harith Mohamed is the secretary of the community association, and he believes conservation is the way forward.

“If you disturb the equilibrium [between] After that, mangroves and terrestrial forests will have consequences,” he told UN News, explaining: “Forest forests are steep, and mangroves are downstream. So it is important to preserve these forests to prevent flooding because if the sea level rises then the farms cannot function.”

The Vanga Green Forest Project supports sustainable community development processes that address education, health, water and sanitation needs. In the short time since it was put into use, about 5 hectares of mangroves have been restored and that trajectory is expected to continue.

Furthermore, Vanga Blue has undertaken important projects to improve the lives and livelihoods of thousands of people in local fishing communities. For example, a kindergarten has been renovated and a hospital has been renovated with new equipment. Local sanitation projects are currently underway.

Plastic pollution in Vanga, a coastal town in Kenya.

UN News / Thelma Mwadzaya

Plastic pollution in Vanga, a coastal town in Kenya.

Connecting cities, people and oceans

Like the ocean, mangroves are huge carbon sinks. Compared with other terrestrial plants and forests, a single mangrove forest is 10 times more likely to absorb carbon emissions. Protecting and enhancing these forests will remove and keep carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

They also promote resilience to climate change, according to Florian Lux of Go Blue Projecta third green growth initiative is underway along the south coast of Kenya, being implemented by UNEP and UN-HABITAT and sponsored by the European Union.

“I am delighted that the Go Blue Project has a mangrove restoration component. [Protection and sustainable use of mangroves provides] lots of possibilities to conserve the environment as well as benefit the local villagers. He told UN News.

Project Go Blue, a joint initiative to promote a sustainable green economy across all six coastal counties of Kenya, is focused on helping cities and towns cope with the impacts of climate change. climate change. In addition, the program aims to exploit important coastal and marine resources to provide employment to more than 3,000 young people and women.

Goodluck Mbaga, a conservationist and environmentalist in Kilifi County, reiterates the importance of being mindful of ocean health.

“It is necessary to preserve especially the marine environment. There is a great deal of potential within the ocean as an alternative means of nutrition. He told UNEP that there is more to the oceans than land activities, echoing UNEP’s call that instead of depleting or polluting these resources, we must develop them. develop ways to exploit and protect them.

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