A community project in Kwale, south coast of Kenya, has set a record for empowering members of the local community by helping establish development projects in a rural set up.
Mkoko Pamoja, which is Swahili word for “mangrove together”, has, through its new approach to mangrove conservation, been earning carbon credit funds from the conservation of mangrove forest along the coastal strip.
“We produce 3,000 tons of carbon from our conservation efforts and sell to the international market and in turn uses the money in providing social amenities to the local community,” Atman Sadiki, coordinator of Mkoko Pamoja, said in an interview.
Sadiki revealed that the organisation, which is based in Gazi village near Gazi bay, has earned $50,000 per year in the past five years.
“The amount from the sale of carbon amazingly continues to increase yearly as we continue to replant the mangrove along the coastline,” he revealed.
As part of their mandate, Sadiki noted that much of the money is used in projects such as sinking boreholes and erecting water tanks, sports, equipping local primary schools with textbooks, supporting orphans and equipping local health facilities with equipments.
Sadiki noted that the organisation has availed freshwater kiosks to community within their localities at affordable price since the ocean water is salty and it is also far from community settlements.
He said that the projects are found in Makongeni, Gazi and Sali villages where communities that border the ocean live.
“Out of the amount we receive every year, we spend 36 percent on office administration, 32 percent on community development, 10 percent on mangrove restoration and the remaining on audit and salaries,” he added.
Sadiki said that they apply the bottoms-up approach by asking communities what they wanted to be done by the organisation as opposed to implementing a project without their approval.
He however said that, given the demand by the community, the amount allocated to the projects is not enough.
The 23-member organisation’s restoration of mangroves in 117 hectares of land that stretches along the beach has helped the community abandon destruction of the mangrove for firewood and charcoal.
The concept of earning carbon credits was agreed upon in 2013 by the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
They listed conservation of existing forest carbon stocks, sustainable forest management and enhancement of forest carbon stocks as activities that qualifies projects to receive incentives.
George Wera, ecosystem conservator at the Kenya Forest Service Kwale county, said that the project has ushered a new face in the conservation efforts as local communities are for the first time seeing the important role that forests play.
“The inclusion of Community Forest Associations (CFA) is playing an important role in boosting forest conservation along the Indian Ocean,” Wera added.
Anne Wanjiru, impact officer at Mkoko Pamoja, said that the organisation has hired two community scouts who patrol the forest on a daily basis, both at day and nighttime.
“We also have ecotourism activities including a boardwalk that gives us money too,” Wanjiru said.
She said that besides earning carbon credits through the project, it has also been supporting fisheries sector and coral reefs that is a critical ecosystem in protection of mangroves from the waves.
Griet Ingrid Dierckxsens, Africa regional knowledge management and communication specialist at the UN Environment, said that the Reducing Emissions for Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) scheme lays emphasis on reducing emissions from deforestation, generating jobs and improving community’s livelihoods.
She said that Kenya deserves to have additional REDD+ projects apart from Kasigau and Chyulu hill projects since the projects help save forests.
“The projects are offering communities alternative livelihoods and in the end leaves forests intact,” Dierckxsens added.
The concept of saving mangrove and earning carbon credit was hatched by researchers at the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Institute (KEMFRI) following a study they did in 2014.
External carbon credit buyers send its money through Association of Coastal Ecosystem Services (ACESS).
ACESS certifies the standard of the ecosystem project, and then sends their report to plan Vivo, a Scottish charity that oversees regular project operation until well implemented.
At the time of measuring the trees for carbon credit calculation, the officials use tapes to measure the height and mass of trees in 10 by 10 meters plot.
By Duncan Mboya