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Lamu East Communities at the forefront of reforesting 10,000 hectares of mangroves forest initiative

With  more than 40 percent of Lamu’s mangrove forests degraded, community conservancy groups in Faza have begun  reforestation efforts that would restore 10, 000 hectares of mangrove forest cover this year alone.

The  initiative led by  the Kenya Forestry Services, Kenya Marine and Fisheries Institute, the Nature Conservancy as well as  Northern  Rangeland Trust   will restore Lamu County’s mangrove forest cover which holds the bulk of the country’s mangrove  forest cover.

Of note, conservancy groups, especially within Pate and Faza have taken the lead to reforest mangroves due to the economic  significance that the trees have for Lamu, since they hold good fishing grounds for crabs and fish as well provide timber  for building and exports.

Speaking  to  KNA  in  Faza Island  ahead of the World Environment Day commemoration day to be held on Saturday in Lamu, The  Nature  Conservancy Project  Strategy Leader, George  Maina  revealed that his organization in conjunction with the KFS and  KMFRI are working closely to reforest Lamu’s mangrove cover.

“We are aware that there have been ongoing conservation efforts in the past which have been largely unsuccessful because of  the communities may not have known which mangroves to plant and where to plant them,” he added.

Maina  noted that there are seven species of mangroves which they were now educating the community conservancy groups on where  to plant them in a bid to ensure that there are minimal losses of mangroves that fail to grow.

Research  has  shown  that Mangroves are notoriously difficult to grow in their habitat due to likelihood of being swept by  high tides as well as not coping to a non-indigenous environment.

“We noted that for every 1,000 mangroves planted, more than seventy percent die because the various species thrive  differently in different waters,” Maina stated, adding that together with the KFS and KMFRI, they had undertaken to educate the conservancy groups on which species to plant and where to plant them.

“We need to ensure that we are not just reforesting for the sake of growing mangroves, but that the aim is to ensure the  mangroves that are grown thrive,” James Omwenga, a KFS official in charge of Mangroves conservancy in Lamu added.

He  said  that presently such activities which the community conservancy groups are undertaking are aligned with Kenya’s  National Mangrove Ecosystem Management Plan of  2017-27

Omwenga  said the restoration protocol prepared for the Western Indian Ocean region by regional experts will be used to provide  step-by-step guidelines to successfully plan and implement the entire restoration programme.

“Our  objective is to have done at least 50 hectares of mangroves to replace the ones that have been degraded across Lamu,” he said.

The  KFS  official said that at least 22 mangrove cutting licenses have been issued since the national government lifted  the  ban on mangrove cutting, and said that conservancy of mangroves can only thrive under multi-agency efforts.

“It  is key for the communities to be aligned with conservation issues because they are the ones who directly benefit from  the blue economy opportunities provided by mangroves and they will also suffer if the process is not done right,” Omwenga  observed.

Mangroves are an integral part of the ecosystem and blue economy for the coastal communities as they provide habitats and  ample breeding ground for fish.

By  Amenya  Ochieng

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