Mikoko Pamoja is a community-led project dedicated to the conservation and restoration of mangrove forests in Gazi Bay, Kenya. Mangroves are important for the local communities, providing coastal protection, water purification and functioning as a nursery for several fish species. However, the continuous harvesting of trees for timber and firewood has impacted them hard. Seeing the consequences, two villages in Gazi Bay decided to take action as a community.
In Kiswahili, the local language, ‘Mikoko Pamoja’ means ‘Mangroves Together’. The project is focused on conserving the remaining mangrove areas and improving the degraded ones, using the sale of carbon credits from avoided deforestation and reforestation actions to finance the project and generate additional benefits for the local community. The way the project is structured creates a direct link between the engagement of the whole community and the creation and distribution of short- and long-term benefits to all.
The communities take an active role in the management, protection and replanting of the surrounding mangroves, covering 117ha by the end of 2017. Local groups patrol for illegal harvesting and plant new mangrove trees in affected areas. To alleviate pressure on the natural areas, a community plantation was also created as an alternative source of timber and firewood at affordable prices, agreed on between the local members. Other income generating activities, such as bee-keeping and eco-tourism, are also being developed. Several awareness-raising activities in the villages promote a gradual change in perceptions and attitudes, which is helped by the positive publicity the project has garnered both in Kenya and abroad.
The project is managed by three groups: The Mikoko Pamoja Community Organization (MPCO) consists of representatives of Gazi Bay, specifically Gazi and Makongeni villages; The Mikoko Pamoja Steering Group (MPSG) which provides technical support to the MPCO; and the project coordinator, The Association for Coastal Ecosystem Services (ACES), a charity registered in Scotland.
ACES was responsible for developing the project, providing the initial research and capacity-building to support local communities in the implementation and certification process. Once the project became established and certified under the Plan Vivo Standard, it could start selling carbon credits to finance itself. ACES then focused on the ongoing environmental and socio-economic monitoring, as well as ensuring the necessary level of transparency for the proper use of the funds. The revenue raised is kept in a community-benefit fund, managed by the Mikoko Pamoja steering group and local representatives. The funds are partly used for the protection and re-planting activities, and partly invested on community projects, like improving the water and sanitation systems, a boardwalk for women-led tours through the mangrove, or supporting youth projects and sports.