Conservationists’ step-up rehabilitation of mangrove forests

Conservationists have stepped-up the rehabilitation of mangrove forests along Kenya’s coastline with a view to restoring the highly degraded marine forests.

The Kenya Forest Service (KFS), the Kenya Wildlife Service and a number of local and international conservation groups, say they have planted close to 50 million mangrove seedlings in the past three years along the coastline.

During celebrations to mark this year’s International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem, Chief Conservator of Forests, Julius Kamau and Kenya Wildlife Service Director General, Brig. John Kamau, led stakeholders on a tour of areas that are being rehabilitated by conservation groups together with local communities.

Among the areas visited was the Mferejini area of Kilifi North Sub-county where Eden Conservation Group has planted close to 200,000 tree seedlings to rehabilitate thousands of acres of mangrove forest had been cut down, leaving the area bare.

Kamau said a multi-agency approach had been employed to restore degraded mangrove forests, adding that the efforts had yielded fruit since at least 50 million mangrove seedlings have been planted in the last three years.

He said in the past, mangrove forests suffered numerous challenges including encroachment, illegal logging, salinity, overharvesting and pollution.

“As KFS, guided by the National Management Plan of Mangroves 2017-2022, we have been deploying different measures, to be able to restore these ecosystems, which include working with communities adjacent to the ecosystems and make them understand why we must work together with them to protect the forests,” he said.

Kamau said about 70 percent of the coastal people depend on fisheries as a key economy hence the need for sensitization on why they should participate in conservation.

The Chief Conservator said by 2019, about 40 percent of the mangrove ecosystem was degraded, including Kilifi County, where 4,000 out of the 10,000 hectares of mangrove forests were degraded.

That is why in 2019, we formed what we call adopt a forest framework that allows partners to adopt an area and restore for at least five years, a factor that had greatly improved the survival rate of the seedlings.

Waweru said KWS had partnered with KFS in the conservation of forests since that is where wildlife, including fisheries, reside.

“Mangroves are always located where the marine parks are, and for those marine parks to thrive, they need to be protected,” he said. For us, restoring the mangroves is a celebration because the fish will have a place where they can breed, he added.

Joan Kariuki, the Managing Director of Eden Project Kenya, which has been restoring the degraded mangrove forest at Mferejini area, said her organization had adopted a number of forests along the coastline including Kilifi where it had adopted more than 4,000 hectares.

“To date we have planted over 17 million propagules (elongated dart-shaped seedlings) of mangroves in Kilifi and a total of 43 million in the entire Coast region within the last three years.

He said the organization employs members of the community and use them to reforest degraded areas, an approach that give communities an opportunity to generate incomes.

Dr. Judith Okello, a Senior Research Scientist with the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Institute (KMFRI), said apart from producing building materials, mangroves also provide shelter for many marine creatures hence the need to conserve them.

Ms Christine Sori, a resident of Kibokoni area along the Kilifi Creek, said before the initiative, villagers used to poach trees for charcoal burning and building.

“This has changed because KMFRI came here with fish farming projects while Eden group employed us to plant mangroves,” she said.

During the function held at Nzombere area along the Kilifi Creek, 80,000 mangrove seedlings were planted to mark the day, whose theme was: Mangrove Forests, Key Ecosystem for the Blue Economy.



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