The boardwalk which is being managed by Gazi Women Group as part of the Mikoko Pamoja project, the eco-tourism wing providing an alternative source of livelihood to reduce over harvesting of mangroves. The boardwalk extends deep into the mangrove forest allowing visitors to sample the beauty of the flora. Photo/Mazera Ndurya
BY TOM NDURYA
A community-based Payments-for-Environmental-Service project is raising waves in the international waters putting an otherwise sleepy village in Kenya’s Kwale County into the world marine conservation arena.
Gazi, located about 40 kilometers south of the port City of Mombasa is not an ordinary village. It is one of the areas in the world known for blue carbon trading- blue carbon is carbon captured by the world’s oceans and coastal ecosystems and a robust research centre.
Today, because of the successful mangrove restoration and protection scheme dubbed “Mikoko Pamoja”, an initiative of the local community and the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI), Gazi bay is a model that continues to attract scholars from all over the world.
Mikoko Pamoja is the first community-type project of its kind in the world to use sale of carbon credits to fund mangrove conservation activities and community development.
Ecuador, Costa Rica, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Madagascar, Mozambique and Tanzania are already using Gazi as a model example and hoping to replicate it in their countries.
Mikoko Pamoja was started in 2013 at Gazi bay as a small carbon offset project and has partnered with scientists from Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) and UK’s universities of Napier Edinburgh, Bangor and Birmingham. Funding for development of Mikoko Pamoja has mostly been through Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) programme also of UK.
Mikoko Pamoja is verified by Plan Vivo Standards and Systems to sell approximately 3000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year over a crediting period of 20 years.
What started as a small community project mainly dealing with reforestation of degraded mangrove forests has been catapulted into international fame. Mikoko Pamoja is among the first of its kind in the world to start selling carbon credits from mangroves (blue carbon) using standardized procedures.
Mikoko Pamoja Project Coordinator Salim Abdalla (left) explaining the different types of mangroves at Gazi bay. Mikoko Pamoja has successfully undertaken some community projects with proceeds from sale of carbon credits. Photo/Mazera Ndurya
According the project developer and chief scientist at KMFRI, Dr James Kairo, such efforts have sparked a flurry of activities even at the national level. Dr Kairo, the coordinator of KMFRI’s Field Station at Gazi has lasting memories of the village.
“Reminiscing Gazi of 1980’s, there was no electricity, no running water, no iron-roofed houses, and no hospital.
The population then was nearly 1000, mostly fishermen. Today’s, Gazi is a ‘big village’ with over 4000 residents mostly fishers. We have main grid electricity, running water, bungalows, banking services, and more so a vibrant youth,” he said.
Some social amenities in the village such as water and education are financed through the proceeds generated by sale of mangrove carbon credits in the voluntary carbon market.
Dr Kairo is very optimistic of the future of Gazi saying in the years to come people will be telling a different story. The fishery in Gazi bay is what drives 80 percent of the economy of the village.
“Almost 70 percent of the commercial fisheries in Gazi bay depend in one way or another from mangroves”, said Dr Kairo. Protecting mangroves through programmes like Mikoko Pamoja is a triple win for climate, community and biodiversity.
“This is one of the success stories that are already being replicated not only in other parts of the Coast like Vanga, Mombasa and Lamu but in other countries as well making Gazi a focal point for mangrove research,” he said.
Dr Kairo who is a member of the International Blue Carbon Scientific Working Group says the time is ripe to replicate the project to other areas within the Coast.
Working under the banners of the Blue Forest, Coastal Ecosystem Services in East Africa (CESEA) and Sustainable Poverty Alleviation for Coastal Ecosystem Services (SPACES) projects Dr Kairo says the next course of action is to provide evidence-based experience that will support replication, up scaling and adoption of the blue carbon projects as nature based solutions to climate change challenges.
A Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) lab technician Hamisi Kirauni tending to mangrove seedlings ready for transplanting in degraded areas within Gazi Bay. Photo/Mazera Ndurya
Vanga is the next stop as plans are afoot to spread the project to Mombasa County.
“The choice of Vanga was necessitated by the fact that the social structure as well as prevailing environmental settings of the area is similar to that in Gazi.
“Mangroves in Vanga suffer similar human pressure to those in Gazi that include population pressure, poor governance, and lack of awareness leading to deforestation and degradation in the Pilot area,” said Dr Kairo.
Dr Kairo re-emphasized that mangrove like any other marine resource should be utilised well to help in uplifting the living standards in the community.
He said they created awareness to the community and showed them how the resources that surround them can move them from poverty to better living standards.
“The Gazi Community has started reaping benefits of a conservation effort through earnings from payment for ecosystem services (PES) and eco-tourism proceeds from the mangrove boardwalk as well as from farming of milk fish (Chanos chanos) in the mangrove area,” he said.
One of the landmark projects that have been set up using funds generated from carbon credit is that of water supply to the village.
But most importantly, the success of the project has brought a new interest in the national government leading to the development of robust National Mangrove Management Plan from where policy guidelines will be crafted and implemented.
The management plan recognizes the important role that mangrove forests play in environmental conservation and economic well-being.
“For a long time, the management of mangrove resources in Kenya was based on harvesting of wood products and not on other essential roles the ecosystem play in fishery production, climate change regulation, and shoreline protection.
“Lack of a management plan to guide utilization of mangrove resources has led to losses and degradation of mangrove habitat,” explains Mr Francis Kariuki, KFS’s Head of Conservancy at the Coastal regional in acknowledging the need for the management plan
The development of mangrove management plan was coordinated by KMFRI through the World Bank’s, Kenya Coastal Development Project (KCDP).
Coconut trees along the coast. Mangroves grow around the seashore.Photo/Pexels
The management plan identifies six major programs, including forestry development, fisheries, community, tourism, research and human resources; which if implemented would lead to sustainable management of mangrove resources in Kenya. Implementation of the management plan would require KSh.3.8billion over a period of 10 years.
Dr Kairo said the management plan is milestone because it enhances mangrove ecosystem integrity and recognizes its contribution to the economy of Kenya.
Mikoko Pamoja concept was one of the highlights during the 2015 Conference of Parties (COP) 22 in Paris France where it was presented as one of the blue solutions to climate change problems raising the profile of Gazi in the world.
Project Coordinator Salim Abdalla, a direct beneficiary of the initiative, said all the money raised from the sale of carbon credits is used for mangrove conservation or for development projects selected and designed by local people.
Salim, a resident of Gazi said their project has a working scheme where the money is shared. “Some 32 percent of the money goes to community projects for Gazi and Makongeni villages while the remaining goes for administration and conservation.
“Under the carbon trade agreement, we are expected to plant 0.4hecatres of mangroves every year for the next 20 years,” he said.
Salim said Mikoko Pamoja is now planning to diversify its activities after completing water projects in the two villages and buying textbooks to schools.
“In future we want to sponsor bright students to secondary schools and universities. Our next target is also to start a micro-finance project where local people can start saving and accessing credit facilities,” said Salim.
At any given time, Gazi hosts about ten interns and scientists from Kenyan Universities and institutions of higher learning around the World.
Molly Czachur, a KMFRI intern from Bangor University, UK who spent 6 months in Gazi said the Mikoko Pamoja carbon offset project now in its third year of carbon trading has revolutionized community involvement in science.
“The success of Mikoko Pamoja has been attributed to community involvement, strong science, government support as well as international partnerships,” she said.
Anne Wanjiru, a Social Impact Officer for Mikoko Pamoja and an intern at KMFRI said many PES projects involving carbon have been initiated in many parts of the world.
“But it is difficult to find good examples of sustainable PES projects. As the first community type project in the world to benefit from the sale of carbon credits from mangroves, we aim to track social, ecological and environmental benefits emanating from Mikoko Pamoja and their sustainability,” she said.
According to Anne Wangari, a PhD student at Embu University College PES schemes are increasingly contributing to livelihood improvement and reducing deforestation.
In turn, this reduces poverty and mitigating climate change. “Institutions play a major role in constraining or enabling access and property rights in payments for ecosystem services projects.
Most of the Kenyan natural resource related legislations, policy and institutional framework recognize and legalize incentive based schemes.
“However, even with the existence of such formal institutions, implementation of PES projects has been slow and difficult to upscale,” she said.
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