By Sharon Atieno

Despite mangroves playing a key role in mitigating climate change by capturing and storing huge stocks of carbon from the atmosphere, the ecosystem has been decreasing over the years.

It is estimated that between 1980 to 1990s period, at least 35% of mangrove forest was lost globally, with losses of 50-80% in some regions, according to researchers.

However, in the Kenyan coast, communities are engaging in mangrove restoration and protection projects which is bringing development through the sale of carbon credits.

One such project is the Mikoko Pamoja project in Kwale County.

According to Rahma Kivugo, the project coordinator of Mikoko Pamoja, the project which covers 117 hectares started in 2013 and stores about 3000 tonnes of carbon per year.

She adds that they sell their carbon credits at a rate of USD 13 per tonne and thus can generate about shs. 2 million per year.

The money is used to facilitate the project’s activities, project implementation in Makongeni and Gazi villages as well as running of the Mikoko Pamoja office and staff payment.

The benefit sharing scheme allows 32% of the money generated to be invested back to the community, through any project of their choice, notes Kivugo.

She says the money has enhanced water accessibility for the villagers, supported education by provision of books in different schools located in the villages as well as increased number of area under mangrove conservation, and improved the health sector in the villages through distribution of various facilities.

“Currently we are working towards reactivating a windmill in Gazi and renovation of Makongeni primary school,” she adds.

There is a similar initiative located in the transboundary mangroves of Kenya and Tanzania dubbed the Vanga Blue Forest (VBF) project.

The VBF project is bigger than the Mikoko Pamoja project covering 460 hectares and offsets about 6000 tonnes of carbon yearly.

Though it has been running for a year, VBF generates about USD 3000 annually which has been used to support local development projects in water and sanitation, education and environmental conservation.

Both Mikoko Pamoja and VBF have entered into a renewable agreement with a voluntary carbon market to sell carbon for 20 years.

The sell of carbon is one of the ways to reduce the levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and limit global warming to 1.5°C as per the Paris Agreement.

The carbon credit allows countries emitting the most carbon through their industries and activities to compensate for their environmental footprint by paying other people to reduce their emissions or capture their carbon through activities such as planting of mangroves.

However, Dr. Kipkorir Langat, a scientist at Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) notes that carbon credit is just one aspect of having mangroves.

There is multiple use potential of ecosystems which include carbon credit , eco-tourism and even protection from tsunamis which are of great service, he says.

Researchers estimate the monetary value of the benefits, or “ecosystem services,” provided by mangroves at $194,000 per hectare annually.