Hope as communities make a living from reforestation projects

A degraded mangrove forest in Kipini, Tana River County. [Caroline Chebet, Standard]

Honey from the mangroves, Omar says, differs in taste from the honey from terrestrial forests. It has a tinge of saltiness and is loved by local communities.

Conservation activities include The Restoration Initiative (TRI) funded by Global Environment Facility through Unep.

TRI's project in the Tana Delta is a five-year project being implemented by Nature Kenya and covers the Tana River and parts of Lamu County. It integrates natural resource management and restoration of degraded landscapes within the country's largest delta.

The initiative seeks to restore mangrove forests that fall under the 130,000-hectare delta. Already, plans for restoring four mangrove forests covering 4,000 hectares within the two counties have been drafted.

"Participatory forest management plans that will guide the conservation, as well as benefit sharing strategies between the communities and the Kenya Forest Service have already been drafted," says George Odera, Tana Delta Restoration Initiative project manager.

Under the initiative, community forest associations will be engaging in replanting and can also make money from activities such as bee keeping.

Other community-led activities are the carbon offset projects in Gazi and Makongeni villages on South Coast. The project started in 2013 and is now being replicated on other shorelines in Vanga, Kwale.

Under the projects, communities plant mangrove forests and sell carbon credits to international emitters of carbon dioxide to offset the huge amount of carbon they release into the atmosphere.

The Mikoko Pamoja has a 117-acre mangrove forest plantation that captures 2,500 tons of carbon dioxide annually, earning the community about Sh3 million through the sale of carbon credits.

Khamis Omar shows some of the beehives in Mida Creek, Kilifi County. [Caroline Chebet, Standard]

The Vanga Blue Forest Project offsets about 5,023 tonnes of carbon per year, which earn more than Sh6 million.

Statistics from the Ministry of Environment show that 4,041.6 hectares of mangrove forest was restored in 2021/2022 financial year; 307.9 hectares in Lamu and 1,223.2 hectares in Kilifi. The ministry, however, did not break down the acreage which communities, conservation organisations and the State restored.

In the same year, 57.5 hectares were restored in Kwale, 1,800 hectares in Mombasa and 653 in Tana River.

According to Mr Odera, with communities being aware of the changing ecosystems, their involvement in building coastal resilience is critical.

Besides the KFS stepping up monitoring within forests, communities also have their own voluntary scouts who carry out patrols. Conservation organisations work with the scouts, who are sometimes employed.

"This means that these communities are able to bounce back and work towards reversing the negative impacts brought about by the changing ecosystems. Coastal communities have witnessed these changes and what matters is that they are part of a journey of building resilience and sustainably doing so," says Mr Odera.