- Over the past two decades, Kenya has lost over 1,000 hectares of mangrove forest.
- Nevertheless, between 2016 and 2020, environmental experts successfully regenerated an additional 500 hectares of mangrove forests.
In spite of Kenya's dedicated efforts to conserve, restore, and rehabilitate its mangrove forest cover, the nation continues to witness the destruction of thousands of acres of these vital ecosystems.
Over the past two decades, Kenya has lost over 1,000 hectares of mangrove forest.
Nevertheless, between 2016 and 2020, environmental experts successfully regenerated an additional 500 hectares of mangrove forests.
Julie Mulonga, the director of Eastern Africa Wetlands International, emphasised the necessity for Kenya to reassess its approaches to mangrove restoration.
Mulonga attributed the increased awareness of the importance of mangrove to government restrictions on tree cutting and educational initiatives
She also cautioned against indiscriminate mass planting, revealing that the survival rate for such efforts is only 30 to 32 per cent.
“We have realised that planting mangroves in mass does not help because most would eventually die. For example, if you plant 10,000 mangroves, the survival rate is 30 to 32 per cent, " she said.
Mulonga advocated for a shift towards natural restoration, which may take more time but offers higher survival rates.
“Understanding the local ecology and hydrology is crucial to successful restoration, as these factors determine the suitability of a location for mangrove growth,” she said.
Mulonga stressed the importance of community involvement in mangrove restoration, as local communities possess valuable knowledge gained from their long-term coexistence with mangroves.
"Involving communities fosters a sense of ownership and commitment to the project," she said.
She also highlighted the role of mangroves in mitigating climate change, both by protecting coastal areas during extreme events like El Nino and by capturing carbon more efficiently than other forests.
Incorporating livelihood opportunities into restoration efforts, such as honey farming in mangrove areas, can deter communities from cutting down mangroves for short-term gains.
She spoke during a community-based ecological mangrove restoration training which attracted foresters and researchers across the coastal region in Mombasa.
Alex Lemarkoko, Chief Conservator of Forest at the Kenya Forest Service, stressed the critical role of mangrove ecosystems in coastal protection, the blue economy, and marine biodiversity conservation.
He emphasised the need for collaboration among government agencies, research institutions, and communities to address threats to mangroves effectively.
Lemarkoko also emphasised the importance of embracing modern technologies and methodologies in mangrove restoration. He pledged to train officers to ensure more efficient and effective efforts in safeguarding and rehabilitating mangrove ecosystems.
"We are together in this programme, but our people need to learn more so that we can also do it in the right manner. The current training is an effort to learn newer, modern and emerging technologies that make us more efficient and achieve our results faster,” he said.