Kwale is an example of how the earth and her creatures provide abundance in many forms for local people. The Gazi and Vanga communities in Kwale depend on mangrove carbon harvesting for their livelihood and earn around Sh2.5 million per year from selling carbon.
This is possible due to conservation efforts and mangrove forest restoration. It is such a transformational situation, Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute mariculture assistant director David Mirera says the mangroves are changing the lives of residents. He says that residents are reaping the benefits of carbon credit sold to developed countries.
Mangroves are known as mikoko in Swahili. These are shrubs growing in coastal saline or brackish water. Some of their many entangled roots grow deep while others float on water. They are found in coastal areas like Lamu, Mombasa, Tana River and Kwale along the Indian Ocean.
The mangrove forests in Kwale, as well as other coastal countries, were endangered by illegal tree-felling for timber, construction, and chang'aa brewing, and charcoal burning by residents.
Years ago, the government banned mangrove harvesting to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Illegal logging threatened human and marine life. Kwale lost many mangroves during the 1970s. Since intervention and restoration began, the number of mangroves has multiplied, according to Mirera.
Mombasa was the coastal mangrove loss-leader with almost 50% of the forest disappearing. It is estimated that Kenya lost about 50% of its mangrove trees to pollution and deforestation in the past 50 years.
Mikoko Pamoja, a Gazi-based community-led mangrove conservation and restoration project, was launched in 2013 by KMFRI. It is the world's first blue carbon project. Blue carbon is a term that denotes carbon captured and stored by coastal ecosystems. Particularly mangroves and seagrasses.
Over 10 hectares of mangroves forest and improved sea grasses in Gazi have been successfully restored, according to Mirera. This contributes to increased production of fish. Mangroves act as soil erosion barriers against storms and are conducive breeding grounds for marine life. They also consume harmful gases like carbon dioxide which helps purify oxygen and improve water quality.
In addition to selling carbon, residents benefit from beekeeping and ecotourism. In Msambweni, the community benefits from the Gazi Boardwalk, where tourists navigate the mangrove forests looking at tree species and marine life. They enjoy the sea breeze, fauna and many bird species.
This 2:37-minute video by NTV Kenya looks at beekeeping in Kwale:
Agriculture officials from mining company Base Titanium have offered Kwale bee farmers extensive training and skills on venturing into agricultural businesses. Residents of Boyani village learned how to make traditional hives from local materials, and got trained on proper bee management, how to establish colonies, and how to harvest honey.
Lazarus Nzola is the Base Agricultural Officer. He urges residents to embrace beekeeping not only for honey but to maximize bee-related income by exhausting all value chains.
Beekeeping is not just about honey, he says. There are more than ten income-generating bee products. These include the harvesting and sale of wax, pollen, propolis, bee venom, and royal jelly. Other sales avenues are selling bee colonies, bee brood, and specializing in queen bee rearing.
Nzola said the bee venture is part of the Base Livelihood Program that is aimed at uplifting and supporting the community impacted by the Base mining project.
Mirera says poor disposal of plastic materials, dumping plastics in the sea, and illegal logging, are still major restoration and conservation problems. People still harvest the mangroves and that is a blow to conservation efforts.
Mirera spoke at Gazi Bay when the International Conservation Caucus Foundation Group and 10 members of the East Africa Interparliamentary team from Kenya, Mozambique and Tanzania visited the region. The tour intention was to raise awareness of the importance of mangroves in sustainable coastal development and the vital role of blue carbon projects in mitigating harsh climate change effects.
Restoring the earth, living in harmony with the earth, and all her creatures including bees, is bringing ever-increasing prosperity and a cleaner environment to these local people.