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It does pay to strengthen safeguards for nature

Residents of Serengei area in Kajiado stand at the bridge that collapsed on Wednesday following a heavy downpour. [Peterson Githaiga, Standard]

The United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) 5(2) happens next week in Nairobi amid efforts to reverse biodiversity loss aided by human and other actions, all of which have direct links to Climate Change.

But there is reason to pat ourselves on the back for the little efforts by indigenous communities, religious and cultural groups, all who also happen to be at the forefront of the climate crisis.

The efforts include those by communities at the Kenyan coast to save the blue forests with the help of international and local NGOs, religious and cultural groups, as well as State institutions that guard water bodies. The efforts have enabled sustainable use of mangrove forests despite glaring threats such as over-harvesting and plastic pollution of the Indian Ocean.

A look at the mangrove forests at the Coast is refreshing and a big reward to humans and other lives.
First, the mangroves are sure protection of the shoreline from erosion caused by extreme weather events such as Tsunami, and human activities.

They provide a breeding ground for a lot of sea creatures, including fish, some microorganisms and wild animals, which communities around the oceans rely on for a complete ecosystem, besides food and livelihood. And who can deny the beauty of the Lamu archipelago, especially from an aerial view; it is a wondrous attraction.

Besides, the mangrove forests are sure carbon sinks, with the ability to take in from the atmosphere five times more carbon than equal sizes of forests on land do, according to the UN.

In line with the UNEA 5 theme: Strengthening Actions for Nature to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, we have all the reason to work towards achieving the 2030 targets for oceans, some outlined in the Kenya’s ‘Go Blue’ strategy launched in 2021, in partnership with Mombasa, Lamu, Kilifi, Tana River and Kwale Counties.

If well implemented, even within the year it has lasted, the fruits should be visible in terms of more jobs besides the aforementioned benefits of blue forests. Several NGOs have also raised income for local communities through carbon offsetting. More support by counties and national governments for transformative actions must be encouraged, as the existing efforts have not really fully prevented a depletion of the rich blue forests.

This means allocating more funds for research, capacity building for locals, especially youth and women, to treat the forests well from a point of knowledge. This also means putting to check the powers vested in the Coast Guards to prevent infringement on the rights and freedoms of the local communities to harvest mangroves, which is a huge source of income for them. There have also been concerns of preferential treatment of fishermen, which diminishes local economy but promotes foreign economies.

The writer is an editor at The Standard. [email protected]