Kenyan communities win Equator Award for innovative mangroves project

An ESPA-supported community conservation initiative has won the prestigious Equator Prize 2017. The prize is awarded to “outstanding community and indigenous initiatives that are advancing nature-based solutions for local sustainable development”.

The winning project, Mikoko Pamoja – which means ‘mangroves together – is an initiative of two communities in Gazi Bay, Southern Kenya. Since 2013, they have been running the world’s first community-based mangrove conservation project funded by selling carbon credits on the voluntary carbon market.

The sustainably-managed mangroves yield 2,250 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year. The revenues from the sale of carbon credits are invested in providing clean water access to 3,500 community residents, educating school children and the public on the importance of mangroves, and ensuring that the 117 hectare mangrove forest remains protected. Ecotourism provides a further source of income for this initiative, which is in the process of being replicated in other regions in Kenya and other countries.

“Mikoko Pamoja provides a triple win for climate, biodiversity and community,” say the project’s leaders. Dr Michael Njoroge, who lives at the site and has worked on the project for his PhD award, says:

“I am a witness of how such community projects could provide triple win situations of combating the impacts of climate change, biodiversity conservation and livelihood improvements.”

The community initiative benefited from early funding from the UK Government through ESPA: the Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation research programme.

James Kairo of the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (pictured above) and Mark Huxham of Edinburgh Napier University had previously discovered how to restore cleared mangrove stands — even in areas where the salty stumps had stood lifeless for 40 years. With ESPA support, they and fellow researchers pioneered a robust methodology to measure the greenhouse gases that were stored as the mangrove forests were protected and brought back to life. The Mikoko Pamoja initiative was born, and – by linking with the international organisation Plan Vivo – succeeded in gaining accreditation (carbon credits) for the restoration activities.

The project also received ESPA support to train Kenyan scientists in analysing the social benefits of the scheme, and in geographic information systems to monitor deforestation and mangrove restoration along the coastline. Bespoke business training nurtured local entrepreneurship for the Gazi Bay scheme. The added local capacity leaves Kenya better able to identify threats to people’s livelihoods and respond to international opportunities for conservation financing.

Find out more on As an Equator prize winner, the project will receive US$ 10,000 which will be awarded on Sunday, 17 September 2017 New York during the 72nd United Nations General Assembly. More on the Equator prize: Contact: Mikoko Pamoja Community Scheme: mikokopamojake [at]; Mark Huxham M.Huxham [at]


Images courtesy of Romy Chevalier/Blue Forests