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Mangrove carbon credits to help Kenyan communities

3 October 2013, by Tom Marshall

A new initiative launched today will raise money for community projects in Kenya by protecting and restoring the country's dwindling mangrove forests.

Mangrove

The plan is to sell carbon credits earned by preserving the mangrove swamps to companies and individuals aiming to offset their carbon emissions and improve their green credentials.

The scientists behind the scheme hope it will bring in some $12,000 a year, around a third of which will fund projects in areas like education and clean water. The rest will cover the cost of protecting the mangroves, as well as planting new seedlings to replace lost trees.

'Mangrove forests are one of the world's most threatened natural ecosystems, with 20 per cent lost in Kenya over the last quarter-century,' says Professor Mark Huxham of Edinburgh Napier University, one of the project's leaders. 'When mangroves are destroyed, the carbon that has been stored in the forest soil and in biomass, built up over thousands of years, is released to the atmosphere and contributes to climate change.'

Mikoko Pamoja ('Mangroves Together') focuses on Gazi Bay, a mangrove-rich coastal area south of Mombasa that's home to around 3000 people. Initially it'll cover 117 hectares of mangrove, but Huxham and his colleagues hope this will expand over time, and that other communities in Kenya and beyond will be inspired to set up similar initiatives when they see the benefits here.

It's the brainchild of Huxham and Dr James Kairo from the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute, with backing from international NGOs including the Earthwatch Institute and the World Wildlife Fund, from UK insurer Aviva and from the Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation programme, which is partly funded by NERC.

'Thanks to the work of Earthwatch volunteers and local people we've built up an excellent relationship with nearby communities,' explains Huxham. 'Mangrove trees are a really important part of everyday life in Gazi Bay and also have spiritual importance to local people.'

In much of the world mangroves are usually cleared to make space for shrimp farming and other kinds of aquaculture, but in Kenya the main threat is logging for firewood and timber. Demand for wood has soared with population growth and urbanisation.

By working with local people and making sure they see immediate benefits from leaving the forests intact, the scientists behind the scheme hope to encourage them to take more care of their mangroves, and in particular to be more vigilant about reporting illegal logging. Most of the focus is on protecting the mangroves that remain, but about 10 per cent of the area is set for planting with new seedlings - Huxham says it's often better to let mangroves regenerate naturally, if conditions permit.

Keeping carbon safely locked up is just one of several goals. The locals are more interested in the more immediate benefits the forests give them; they protect the coastline from erosion and provide a home for crabs, shrimp and young fish which then move offshore as adults and support local fishermen.

A council of local people will decide how to spend the profits from selling carbon credits. They are also responsible for communicating the project's aims to the community, which should increase locals' sense of being involved with and benefiting from it.

Huxham and Kairo have spent the last decade working with communities in the south of Kenya to protect mangrove forests, working with colleagues from Bangor, Birmingham and Edinburgh universities. The project's carbon benefits are being independently verified by Plan Vivo, an organisation that specialises in setting up small-scale carbon offsetting schemes to help communities in the developing world.

NERC has supported Huxham's work in the area for many years. Before ESPA became involved, it funded his earlier work on how young fish shelter in the mangroves of Gazi Bay. He now hopes that if Mikoko Pamoja succeeds in providing a significant and sustainable boost to local incomes, similar projects will follow it elsewhere. ESPA recently awarded a new grant to fund a new initiative in Tanzania, and other East African nations like Mozambique, Madagascar and Zanzibar also have extensive mangrove forests that should be suitable.


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Your comments

The people of Kenya will make pennies out of these Carbon Credits and some else will pocket Pounds, as did Gore. I think this is so wrong when we are told these so called credits are to help third world counties.
The only people who they seem to help are a select few.
God knows the people of Africa/India need help but not exploited by a few making billions.

Jon Nemo, Tumble, Llanelli
Monday, 7 October 2013 - 17:37

Projects like this are too small to be included in large emissions-trading schemes like the EU one; I can't see how anyone could make any outrageous money off these people, as I don't believe the credits can be sold on at a profit or anything like that. It's a more informal concept whereby a company or person wants to offset part of their carbon emissions and effectively rents some of the CO2-absorbing capacity of the mangrove forest.

The villages in the area get a few grand a year if all goes well, which will make a significant difference to their lives. Perhaps more importantly, the more immediate ecosystem services that they depend on from the mangroves are preserved - food, erosion control etc. Apparently local plantations are starting to be washed away already so the latter is a very serious issue for them. So all in all it seems like a win-win.

Can't see what Al Gore has to do with it, but then I never can.

Tom Marshall, Planet Earth Online
Tuesday, 8 October 2013 - 10:31

www.redd-monitor.org/2011/09/23/ugandan-farmers-kicked-off-their-land-for-new-forests-companys-carbon-project/

Tom this type of thing is worrying if true, carbon credits are big money for some, and big losers for others.

If what you say is true then I take my hat off to all but I have this little thought going on in my head that says, greed is what carbon trading is about. Sorry.

Jon Nemo, Tumble, Llanelli
Tuesday, 8 October 2013 - 11:11

I have no problem with this project. if anything, in terms of the benefits of restoring the ecosystem, the local stand to gain a lot. My main problem becomes the 'local council that decides how money is spent'. Being Kenyan, I have seen that this 'local council' idea in many cases means the chosen few. I think a more equitable and individualized method of sharing revenues from such projects should be decided from the onset. If not, the weak end up working more and gaining nothing, when all is said and done. It might even end up being a source of conflict instead of peace and development.

Val Sims, Nairobi
Friday, 28 February 2014 - 09:22