By George Munene
Kwale County’s Mikoko Pamoja (‘Mangroves Together’) project is pioneering ‘mangrove carbon’, an initiative that sees Gazi Bay residents raise money by selling carbon credits earned by cultivating mangrove trees to people and organisations eager to shrink their carbon footprint.
The project launched two years ago by Scottish charity ACES supports planting and conserving mangrove trees for payment, which helps benefit the local community.
Mangroves are tropical marine forests with significant ecological importance. They act as carbon sinks which help fight climate change. The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that global mangrove forests sequester up to 22.8 million tons of carbon each year within their roots, trunks, and soil.
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Compared to other terrestrial trees and forests, a single mangrove forest has a tenfold ability to suck in carbon emissions. Protecting and enhancing these forests removes and keeps carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
They also protect coastlines from erosion and storm surges, provide food and shelter for diverse wildlife, and nursery habitats for commercially important fish and shellfish.
Speaking to UN News, Mwanarusi Mwafrika, the coordinator of Vanga Blue Forests, a sister project to Mikoko Pamoja said that due to their environmental conservation efforts local fishermen are reporting larger catches while some animal species like dugongs (marine mammals that are cousins of similarly threatened manatees) which had begun disappearing are now coming back.
Mangrove trees in Kenya represent about three per cent of natural forest cover, covering over 60,000 hectares. The bulk of it, 60 per cent, grows in Lamu County while in Kwale county, in the southern part of Kenya, there is 14 per cent of mangrove cover.