This groundbreaking initiative was launched as part of the project supported by UN Environment through the Global Environment Facility Blue Forests Project and the International Coral Reef Initiative/UN Environment coral reefs small grants programme. Other partners include the Kenya Forest Service and the Kenya Marina & Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI).
This comes after the success of the Mikoko Pamoja project, a community-led mangrove conservation and restoration project in Gazi Bay. It is backed by the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation and has been operational since 2010.
The new project in Vanga looks to protect it’s blue forests in the same way, by funding mangrove conservation through the sale of carbon credits on the voluntary carbon market, verified by the Plan Vivo carbon trading standard.
“Globally, this is one of the first projects that is trading carbon credits from mangrove conservation and restoration,” said UN Environment mangroves expert Gabriel Grimsditch. “The project will conserve and restore over 4,000 hectares of mangroves in Kwale County and support the livelihoods of over 8,000 people in fishing communities in the area through community development initiatives.”
Mangrove forests are disappearing 3-5 times faster than overall global deforestation, with current estimates indicating that mangrove coverage has been cut by half in the past 40 years. The loss of these trees has a serious ecological and socio-economic impact on local communities and the environment.
“Estimates of the total mangrove area in the world vary but range from 12–20 million hectares. The Vanga project covers only a tiny percentage of this area, but its innovations are replicable and scalable – with local modifications – globally,” added Grimsditch.
It is vital that mangrove forests remain intact as they protect coastlines against erosion, storms and rising sea levels, and are the major source of protein for the villages along the coast. Additionally, they provide a source of sustainable fuel wood in an area where 95% of the population uses wood for cooking. They support a great deal of biodiversity and their soils are highly effective carbon sinks.
“From the sale of carbon credits they’re going to have funds that they can pump into the community,” said Lilian Mwihaki from the KMFRI. “The Gazi community have been able to buy books for their schoolchildren. They’ve been able to buy some equipment for their hospital. They’ve been able to bring water to their community.”
According to the Vanga plan, mangroves in Kwale County will be co-managed by the Kenya Forest Service and the Community Forest Association. UN Environment helped develop the plan while the KMFRI provided technical support to the community.
Photographs courtesy of Stanislav Lvovsky and Gabriel Akoko.
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