• 1,000 to 5,000 acres of mangroves are targeted around Lamu county to implement the Blue Carbon project that will also fight global warming.
Money does grow on trees — mangrove trees in Lamu county.
Carbon trading is the newest money-making venture in Lamu and is expected to fetch annual returns of more than Sh13 million once implemented this year.
The plan is to establish a large carbon credit project hosted in Lamu county.
This will be a massive cash-in for local communities that largely depend on mangrove logging and trading for survival.
Carbon trading, also known as carbon emissions trading, is using the marketplace to buy and sell credits that allow companies or other parties to emit a certain amount of carbon dioxide.
At least 1,000 to 5,000 acres of mangroves are targeted around Lamu county to implement the Blue Carbon project. It will also reinforce the fight to mitigate climate change.
Blue carbon is a term denoting carbon captured and stored by coastal ecosystems, particularly mangroves and seagrasses.
This follows successful ongoing talks between the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (Kemri), Kenya Forest Service, the UN Environment Programme, The Nature Conservancy, Lamu county government, Go Blue under the Blue Economy Project, among other partners.
Of all six coastal counties in the country, Lamu has the largest mangrove forest cover.
Also, more than 60 per cent of mangroves in Kenya lie in Lamu county.
The innovative carbon project is scheduled to take place between 2023 and 2024. It also focuses on restoring mangrove forests in Lamu and neighbouring Tana River county through facilitated sale of carbon credits.
Lamu Governor Issa Timamy underscored the critical role played by the mangrove ecosystems in realising a sustainable blue economy.
He spoke when he received a high-level delegation from KMFRI, KFS, UNEP and TNC on Thursday.
He said the county government equally has a crucial role to play in environmental conservation.
“Issues of developing mangrove harvest plans also interest my government as this will ensure sustainable removal of mangrove wood without impacting the forest productivity. This is a big opportunity that will benefit climate, community and biodiversity conservation,” Timamy said.
Not everyone favours carbon credit trading.
Critics say rather than aiding the vital reduction of greenhouse gases, it creates a system allowing companies to delay meaningful action. It's premised on the false basis of having 'cancelled out' their emissions with the credits they purchase.
“I thank the European Union through UNEP and TNC for securing the funding for this important project in Lamu,” Timamy said.
KMFRI chief executive officer representative Eric Okuku emphasised the critical role mangrove plays in carbon capture and storage.
He said mangroves not only provide huge carbon opportunities that generate income for the communities involved but also help avert further emissions from the more than 20 million tonnes of carbon.
Okuku cited the Mikoko Pamoja project established by KMFRI in Gazi Bay, Kwale county, in 2013 as the first community-type project as being a major success story.
“The project has enabled the restoration and protection of mangroves through the sale of carbon credits. Communities in Gazi are trading about 3,000 tonnes of carbon per year, earning Sh3 million to Sh4 million annually from only 290 acres of mangroves,” Okuku said.
He said funds from such projects are channeled directly to community bank accounts and are used to support local development projects in the water, sanitation, education, and health sectors.
Activities at the Mikoko Pamoja project have been scaled up in Vanga Blue Forest where the communities are earning between Sh8 million and Sh10 million annually from about 1,100 acres.
“Lamu is looking to do the same, only on a larger scale, Okuku said.
"We aim to commit about 5,000 acres to carbon trading whereby we can easily generate carbon income of at least Sh13 million each year,” he said.
The challenge, however, is identifying eligible mangrove sites for carbon generation, then the project will be ready for take-off.
Okuku cited government support, community understanding, good science, and international networks as factors that will enable the success of the project.
“KMFRI brings onboard good science and a vast international network," he said.
"We’re, therefore, seeking political support from both the national and county governments through fast-tracking of enactment of carbon policy."
(Edited by V. Graham)