Mangrove restoration expands carbon credit benefits to coastal Kenya

Eight years ago, mangrove forests in the Kenyan village of Gazi were greatly depleted for use as firewood and construction poles while poaching ran rampant nearby. Today, the village has turned over a new leaf. The mangrove forests are thriving once again and poaching has fallen 90 percent over the last six years. What created the positive change? Carbon credit reforestation. 

Watching the ecological and socioeconomic crisis unfolding in Gazi, the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Institute and Scottish Plan Vivo Foundation teamed up to institute a profitable carbon offset initiative for local residents. 

Under the new program, organizers planted Casuarina tree lots as an alternative source of wood for construction poles and firewood, and residents received environmental education about the economic and planetary benefits of conserving mangroves. Finally, residents prepared saplings for six months in preparation for planting.

Today, the village trades 3,300 tons of captured carbon from its mangrove forests as carbon credits, providing livelihood in exchange for conservation. It also has built a new health center, a school, and boreholes for fresh water. 

Mangroves are powerful carbon sinks, protect against coastal storm surges, and serve as a home to over 180 species of fish. The return of healthy fish populations to the area has also helped provide financial opportunities for those who rely on fishing for food and economic viability. 

Samuel Mutisya, a reformed poacher from Kibwezi, a settlement just to the north of Tsavo National Park told the BBC, “Joblessness is the reason the youth usually engage in poaching and illegal logging in Kenya. “If carbon projects can create jobs for people in the villages, then society will start seeing forests and wildlife as their banks.”

Carbon offsets can be a controversial idea among those who believe it is just “forgiving” emissions, but as we transition to a greener future, bridging the gap to zero emissions with projects like mangrove restoration is effective for increasing carbon capture while providing resources for communities most vulnerable to a changing climate. 

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