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Women in Faza Island leading mangrove forest conservation efforts

Mangroves provide timber for home construction in the coastal region. By Amenya Ochieng

Pate and Faza Island women associations are quietly leading the charge in driving reforestation of mangrove forests that have been massively exploited with more than 32,000 acres lost due to harvesting.
Speaking to KNA Friday after planting more than 6,000 trees in Faza Island, Lamu, a resident Amina Shalo stated that the women groups have taken the lead in growing the mangrove forests that have been dilapidated.
“We have lost more than 20, 000 acres of mangroves due to harvesting that has since been banned by the national government,” Amina stated.
She said that thanks to support from the Kenya Forestry Service, Kenya Wildlife Service and Northern Rangeland Trust, the women’s group have consistently received seedlings for the groups to grow.
“It is only by conserving the mangrove forests that our communities will be able to sustain their livelihoods that have been dependent on fishing and mangroves,” she stated.
Since the government’s ban on tree cutting, islands such as Ndau, Faza and Pate have borne the brunt as mangroves were their main source of economy.
According to the Lamu East women groups’ leaders, unemployment has been on the rise as locals have yet to find alternative sources of income despite a Parliamentary Select Committee on Environment and Environment Cabinet Secretary promising to lift the ban on mangrove cutting.
Local leaders, and especially  Lamu Women Representative Ruweida Obo has been on the forefront of advocating for lesser mangrove regulation to enable locals’ access the trees.
The women groups in Lamu East, have taken the initiative to grow mangrove forests in already deforested areas within Pate Island to enable sustainability of mangrove harvesting to continue.
Sentiments echoed by lead women’s conservatoire with the Pate Women’s conservation association Rafia Abudi who stated that conservation efforts should be done in consideration that the mangrove forests in Lamu and the wider coast region provide livelihoods for communities.
“The mangroves provide employment for our youths many of whom are idle because of the moratorium, and this has led to growing crime levels in Lamu East,” Rafia said.
She said that the conservation drive is part of a county drive to show the national government that mangroves can and will be sustained in areas such as Lamu.
Mangroves normally take four to five years to grow, and are normally pruned rather than power sawed like other trees.
She said that it is only by conserving mangroves that marine life can be sustained.
According to Lamu Director for Kenya Forestry Services, Evans Maneno mangrove forests are responsible for a lot of the marine life conserved by the Kenya Wildlife Service.
Rafia Abudi further stated that conservation efforts are in line with ensuring that future livelihoods of Lamu residents are sustained.
“The national and county governments are lagging behind in coming up with a decision over the mangroves harvesting issue which should have been resolved by now,” Mohammed Shalo, a conservation expert based in Lamu stated.
Lamu KFS official Evan Maneno who also spoke to KNA in Pate Island revealed that the national government is keen to uplift the ban on mangrove harvesting in Lamu Island in consideration of the economic weight that the trade has in the coast.
He further said that the conservation efforts being driven by women’s groups in Lamu is commendable in consideration that it is the men who benefit from the mangrove trade.
“So far women groups have planted new seedlings in 2,000 acres of areas that mangrove trees are few,” Maneno stated.
He revealed that there are more than 37,000 acres of mangrove forest cover in Lamu which should be selectively cultivated when the ban is lifted.
Speaking separately to KNA former Lamu Governor Issa Timamy stated that it is important that the national government gets past hurdles blocking it from lifting the ban on mangrove harvesting in Lamu.
“Whole islands such as Pate and Ndau are suffering because of the ban on mangrove harvesting which is a key trade for many youths in Lamu, and the government needs to get past the bureaucracy and have the political will to do what is right for the Lamu people,” Timamy stated.
By Amenya Ochieng

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