by Joy Nabukeya
MOMBASA, Kenya, April 28 (Xinhua) -- A small fishing village in Kenya's coastal region has earned international recognition as a hub for green economy thanks to a community-owned carbon offset project that has enhanced the conservation of mangrove forests.
The Gazi village, located about 40 kilometers south of the port city of Mombasa, is the site of the project that has earned global accolades for revolutionizing conservation of mangrove forests.
Thanks to this project dubbed Mikoko Pamoja (a Swahili word that means together with mangroves), Gazi has attracted international visitors to learn how carbon trade can lift communities' living standards.
It is an initiative of the local community and Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI).
Mikoko Pamoja is the first community-led project of its kind in the world to use sale of carbon credits to fund mangrove conservation alongside community development.
Ecuador, Costa Rica, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Madagascar, Mozambique and Tanzania are already using Gazi as a model example and keen to replicate it in their countries.
Kenyan and British marine scientists have partnered to implement the carbon offset projects that also incorporates prudent harnessing of local habitats to alleviate poverty.
Mikoko Pamoja has been approved by Plan Vivo Standards and Systems to sell approximately 3,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually over a period of 20 years.
James Kairo, Project Developer and Chief Scientist at KMFRI, said it has unleashed massive benefits to local people and the wider coastal region.
"Almost 70 percent of the commercial fisheries in Gazi bay depend in one way or another from mangroves," Kairo told Xinhua on Thursday.
A number of projects to enhance access to social amenities like water and education are financed through the proceeds generated by sale of carbon credits generated by mangrove forests.
Kairo is very optimistic about the future of Gazi carbon project saying it will break new ground in green economy alongside transformation of fisheries sector in the coastal region.
Protecting mangroves through programs like Mikoko Pamoja is a triple win for climate, community and biodiversity," he added
He noted the project has already expanded to other coastal villages and has become a focal point for mangroves research.
Kairo is also a member of the International Blue Carbon Scientific Working Group under the banners of the Blue Forest, Coastal Ecosystem Services in East Africa (CESEA) and Sustainable Poverty Alleviation for Coastal Ecosystem Services (SPACES) projects
He disclosed the next course of action is to provide evidence-based research that will support replication, up scaling and adoption of the blue carbon projects as nature based solutions to climate change challenges.
Kairo reiterated that mangrove forests like any other marine resource should be utilized well to help in uplifting the living standards of local communities.
"We created awareness to the community and showed them how the resources that surround them can be harnessed to solve their poverty and other social challenges," said Kairo.
He noted the Gazi Community is already reaping benefits of conservation effort specifically eco-tourism and payments for ecosystem services.
One of the landmark projects that have been established using funds generated from carbon offsetting is that of water supply to the village.
More importantly, the success of the project has generated interest in the Kenyan government leading to the development of a robust National Mangrove Management Plan.
The plan recognizes the critical role that mangrove forests play in environmental conservation and economic well being.
"For a long time, the management of mangrove resources in Kenya was based on harvesting of wood products and ignored other essential roles the ecosystem play like fisheries and carbon storage," remarked Francis Kariuki, a forestry officer in the coastal region.
"Lack of a management plan to guide utilization of mangrove resources is to blame for degradation of mangrove habitat," Kariuki added.