World Mangrove Day - A blog!

Rob Bruce
July 26, 2016



  • Mangroves soak up to 6 times as much carbon as rainforests and are worth $194,000 per hectare to local economies, yet 60% of this vital ecosystem has been lost in the past 50 years
  • Mikoko Pamoja is the world's first community based carbon capture mangrove conservation scheme....and its working brilliantly, proving that elusive "win-wins" are possible and worth pursuing 
  • The project has helped deliver a new school, new water wells and text books for the local community
  • Get the right science in the hands of the right people working towards a common goal is the way to make a positive difference in the world


Today is International Mangrove Day, and in my humble opinion there is no better project in the world that captures everything this day stands for than Mikoko Pamoja.  It was held up as a case study of best practice in Paris during COP21 for good reason!

Mangroves provide many vital services to tropical regions and the people who live there, including storm protection, the filtering of pollutants and the provision of nursery areas for fish, as well as mitigating climate change by trapping large quantities of carbon (up to 6 times more than rainforests can soak up). Yet mangroves are the Earth’s most threatened ecosystem – up to 60% have been cut down or burnt out in the past 50 years alone!

A report published by the BBC today states the economic value of mangroves can be as much as £194,000 per hectare, and in Sri Lanka they are about to open a museum dedicated entirely to this important green asset.

Our Swahili Seas project was based at Gazi Bay, which lies 55km South of Mombasa. and is lined with 592 ha of mangroves and is host to a community of around 3000 people. It was while conducting research there that Professor Mark Huxham and team decided to set up the world’s first community led carbon credit scheme for mangrove conservation.

Launched in 2012, Mikoko Pamoja (meaning mangroves together) pioneered an approach to calculate the economic value of the mangroves in Kenya which led to independent accreditation for a scheme which harnesses the wins gained from restoration and conservation of the mangrove forests:

  • climate change adaptation - reducing the risks associated with climate change through storm protection
  • climate change mitigation - the sequestration of carbon
  • improved human well-being - enhanced incomes of local communities

The project employs Gazi residents and volunteers from Earthwatch to restore mangroves and prevent further deforestation of the coastline. The sale of the carbon credits generates income of US$13,000 each year, which funds continued conservation efforts as well as important community projects including:

  • building of a new school for 600 children
  • new water pumps to supply 50 households
  • sponsoring the education of dozens of local children, including the donation of books to Gazi primary school only last week

The project sold all this year’s carbon credits within 6 months, proving there is a big demand for a scheme that demonstrate conservation and community benefits as well as carbon capture ones. One of the main buyers this year was the International Society for Conservation Biology   who are offsetting all the their fourth International Marine Conservation Congress by buying Mikoko Pamoja credits.

At a high profile Royal Geographical Society debate in May the team presented the case for payments for ecosystem services and carbon credits to an audience of more than 400, raising over £900 along the way to provide fresh drinking water for the primary school in Makengoni village, which currently has no potable supply.

The researchers have also provided data to inform the Kenyan National Mangrove Management Plan as well as helping the government visualise the value and threats to mangroves with bespoke maps that showed the 'carbon landscapes' and at-risk locations. They also trained African scientists to add to local capacity supporting the sustainability and future of the initiative, as well as looking  to replicate its success in other areas. They also worked with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) to set up the East African policy forum (EAFPES), a knowledge sharing network dedicated to improving the impact of payments for ecosystem services.

There are a huge number of reasons why I enjoy working here at ESPA. There are so many great people doing great work to help others across the globe, but to me Mikoko Pamoja sits at the top of my list. It not only epitomises all the benefits of mangrove conservation, it also embodies what can be achieved when the right knowledge is used by the right people working together for a common good. When research findings and data are placed in the hands of the people that want to truly make a difference in the world that’s when science - environmental or otherwise - really matters, and when it really comes in to its own.