A PIONEERING project aiming to save endangered African mangrove habitat and pilot small scale atmospheric carbon offset to fight Climate Change was launched on the 3rd October 2013, managed by and raising money for the local Kenyan community.
The official launch of this Payment for Ecosystem Services scheme was held in Gazi village with senior civil servants and politicians set to attend, including the head of the Kenyan Forest Service, in charge of all forestry in the country.
Edinburgh Napier University scientist Professor Mark Huxham and Dr. James Kairo from the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) expect to generate $12, 000 per year, covering project costs and with profits going to the local community making the project work, as guardians of the mangroves and the natural assets they provide for the environment. The project is being independently verified by the Plan Vivo Foundation, a charity that helps ensure that carbon offsetting schemes deliver genuine ecological benefits and help communities in the developing world.
The area, 30 miles south of Mombasa, supports mangrove forests that are amongst the most productive eco-systems on Earth.
Thought to be the first community run project of its kind in Africa, ‘Mikoko Pamoja’ meaning ‘Mangroves Together’ in Kiswahili, aims to generate and sell carbon credits to companies and individuals looking to improve their green credentials.
More than 30% of revenue raised will be channelled in to a special community benefit fund, headed by local representatives, for spending on community projects. The rest of the money generated will go towards employing a project coordinator and local labourers to help protect an initial 117 hectares of mangroves and re-plant lost trees along Gazi’s coastline.
As well as offering crucial nursery habitat for marine life and protecting the coastline from storms and tsunamis, mangrove forests are natural carbon sinks. Able to lock and store CO2 in their sediments, the forests help lessen the impacts of global warming. Their carbon storing powers are thought to be on average five times that of tropical rainforests.
Professor Huxham said: “Mangrove forests are one of the world’s most threatened natural ecosystems, with 20% lost in Kenya in the last quarter century. When mangroves are destroyed, usually for building materials or for fuel, the carbon that has been stored in the forest soil and in biomass, built up over thousands of years, is released in to the atmosphere contributing to climate change.”
Dr Kairo said: “Investment in Mikoko Pamoja is a demonstrable triple win for community livelihood improvement, biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation. Protecting mangroves through Mikoko Pamoja will not only mitigate impacts of climate change, but more importantly will enhance income for communities whose livelihood is tied around mangrove ecosystem.”
Backed by international NGOs – Earthwatch Institute, World Wildlife Fund, The Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) programme, AVIVA PLC and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) – and working closely with Dr Martin Skov of Bangor University, Professor Maurizio Mencuccini of Edinburgh University and Dr Fiona Nunan of Birmingham University, Dr. Kairo and Prof. Huxham have spent the last decade working with Southern Kenyan communities to protect the disappearing mangrove forests in their areas.
Prof. Huxham said: “Thanks to the work of Earthwatch volunteers and local people we’ve built up an excellent relationship with nearby communities. Mangrove trees are a really important part of everyday life in Gazi Bay and also have spiritual importance to local people.
“The money raised for local development will be spent on projects decided by local people themselves – we have already invested heavily in education and water supplies.”
Recognising the value of Mikoko Pamoja’s potential to improve the lives of poor people in East Africa, the UK’s Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) programme has awarded a new research grant, to fund a similar project in Tanzania.
The Director of ESPA, Professor Paul van Gardingen said “Mikoko Pamoja’s success illustrates the way that science can improve the lives of the poor in developing countries. The long-term partnership between world-leading Kenyan and UK researchers has significantly improved our understanding of how healthy Mangrove ecosystems are essential to the lives of poor and vulnerable people in Kenya.
“Their commitment to work with local communities, supported by Earthwatch and Aviva PLC has helped to turn research into reality. I am very pleased that ESPA is providing new support for this team to extend their work to benefit many more communities in Kenya and Tanzania.”