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Coastal communities stress importance of preserving mangroves | Coastweek

Mangroves are shrubs or small trees that grow in coastal saline or brackish water. Mangroves occur worldwide in the tropics and subtropics, mainly between latitudes 25° N and 25° S. In the year 2000, the area of mangroves was 53,190 square miles (137,760 km²), spanning 118 countries and territories. Mangroves are salt tolerant trees, also called halophytes, and are adapted to life in harsh coastal conditions. The unique ecosystem found in the intricate mesh of mangrove roots offers a quiet marine region for numerous young organisms vital in the oceanic food chain. In areas where roots are permanently submerged, the organisms they host include algae, barnacles, oysters, sponges, and bryozoans, which all require a hard surface for anchoring while they filter feed. Shrimps and mud lobsters use the muddy bottoms as their home. Mangrove crabs munch on the mangrove leaves, adding nutritients to the mangal muds for other bottom feeders. In at least some cases, export of carbon fixed in mangroves is important in coastal food webs. WIKIPEDIA PHOTOS - RON NIEUWEGEIN and AGHA TAHIR HUSSAIN

Coastal communities stress importance of preserving mangroves
KWALE (Xinhua) -- A Kenyan community at the coastal region is making steady efforts in preserving mangrove forest critical to mitigating the effects of climate change.

The villagers from Gazi and Makongeni in Kwale County have come together to protect the trees within the Gazi Bay against harvesting for charcoal, firewood, building houses and boats.

Under Mikoko Pamoja Community Organization, the members have an agreement with the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) to monitor the 117 hectares of the mangrove forest at the Gazi Bay and replenish it annually with 4,000 trees.

Salim Mwarima, the project coordinator says conservation of the mangroves in the coastal has contributed to significant improvements to the ecosystem.

"For the last five years we have seen a great reduction in the cutting of trees," Mwarima said.

"For many years, people used to fell the mangroves haphazardly.

"They are used here for many purposes with the most common being building houses, making boats and as firewood," he said.

But with the support of Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (Kemfri) and KFS, the organization has managed to educate the people on the importance of participating in conserving the trees.

"For the last 25 years, Kemfri has been doing research on mangrove in this area and have recognized the importance of conserving the trees," he said.

From studies on significance of mangroves to the mitigation of climate change, high loss of the trees results in an increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

This is because, they are good absorbers of the carbon dioxide which they store within the biomass and below the roots.

At least 90 percent of the population at Gazi Bay depend on fishing for a livelihood with the mangroves providing breeding grounds for the fish, observed Mwarima.

Ali Zuberi, vice chairman of the organization and a fisherman says the rehabilitated mangroves have significantly reduced erosion of soil into the Gazi Bay waters.

Zuberi who has been fishing for more than two decades also notes an increase in fish capture. He says currently a fisherman can harvest an average of 15 tonnes from previously three.

"When the season picks in October you will see stocks of fish piling up (at the shores of the Gazi Bay) unlike before when you could go for two days and return with nothing.

"You don’t need to go too far right now," he said.

The community has a permission from the KFS to sell carbon credits with the revenue generated going into financing projects benefitting the whole community.

Zuberi said the carbon offset project is paying off to the community who has now become the custodians of protecting the forest from illegal logging.

"In essence, people have become part and parcel of activities championing for the protection of the mangroves against destruction.

"They are motivated to preserve and conserve the forest since they can see the benefits of it," he said.

"We have stocked schools around here with books and the parents don’t need to struggle anymore.

"They also have access to clean water.

"And this is all because of the money we are receiving from selling the carbon credits," he said.

Supporting the carbon offset schemes meant to reduce carbon emissions is among the commitments the 193 countries made during the United Nations Convention Framework on Climate Change in Paris, December last year.

Countries have a goal of minimizing temperature increase to below 2 degrees Celsius, a target to be meant by putting forth multi-dimensional and multi-sectoral activities to cut on release of carbon gases into the atmosphere.

According to Nafasi Mfahaya, the KFS ecosystem conservation officer for Kwale County, the community activities are in a great way boosting conservation of the mangroves.

"Involvement of the community in the conservation of the forests is critical to tackling deforestation," she noted.

Further, she said it is a remarkable project that addresses concerns of climate change since the mangroves store high volumes of carbon captured from the atmosphere.

However, despite their efforts of protecting the forest, Zuberi says they are still concerned over unending felling of the trees.

"But we will continue to sensitize the people on the importance of mangroves to the environment to prevent any further extensive deterioration," added Zuberi while noting that clearing of the trees would be a major threat to the survival to the fishing communities at the south coast.


Illegal fishing threatens southern Tanzania’s marine park

ARUSHA, Tanzania (Xinhua) -- Illegal fishing is threatening the survival of the southern Tanzania’s Mnazi Bay-Ruvuma Estuary Marine Park.

The 16-year-old park is a multi-purpose marine protected area with globally significant marine biodiversity values and it covers a total land and sea area of 650 square kilometers with 20,000 inhabitants.

Benson Chiwinga is a park legal officer who described illegal fishing as a serious challenge threatening the survivor of the park, which is a home to important populations of whales, dolphins, four species of turtle and numerous birds.

"It’s hectic to catch the illegal fishermen, as the area is big. At some point, we’re trying to local communities, but the challenge is still there," the official said, attributing the problem with politics as there are politicians who are thwarting the battle against illegal fishing.

According to him, there are politicians who use illegal fishing gears as their political gains.

"Worse enough once they are elected at the local government levels they encourage fishermen to use any fishing gears they want.

"This is a challenge to us as conservators," he said.

The official further said that there are people in the area who prefer to easy fish catch by using fishing gears which are harmful to the environment and entire ecosystem of the park, located nearly 600 km from Tanzania’s commercial capital of Dar es Salaam.

"We are discouraging people from using dynamite, and other illegal fishing gears such as beach seines, monofilament nets, gillnet with lattice sizes below the recommended size," he said, adding:

"We have been carrying out regular patrols in the area, but the challenge still remains there."

The official heaped blames on the judiciary for offering small penalties to the perpetrators of the illegal fishermen.

"This is another challenge as when they are fined too little money they pay and continue with the business as usual," he said.

He said the deadly challenge of dynamite fishing is the destruction of coral reefs and fish breeding sites.

"Our park is under threat as fishermen tend to get into the marine protected areas.

"This is different to the neighboring Kenya and Uganda where a fisherman found guilty using unfriendly fishing gears is banned from fishing for more than five years and heavy fine.

"But here is different as the fishermen in that situation are fined an average of 9.14 U.S. dollars," said Chiwinga.

He also cited delays of cases in court as a challenge facing conservation in the area, which borders Tanzania and Mozambique.

The conservator suggested the need for Tanzania to increase the fines to at least 228 dollars and five-year imprisonment.

Villages leading for dynamite fishing activities in the southern Tanzania’s marine park include Kilambo Litembe, Mkubilu, Nalingu, Mnete, Msangamkuu, Tangazo, and Mgoji.

Janepha Simbua is the community development officer with the park, who cited limited understanding on the importance of conservation is one of the reason that fuel illegal fishing in the area.

"We are trying to educate fishermen and schoolchildren on this matter.

"At one time we picked some of the fishermen to Zanzibar to see how our colleagues there honor marine resources... but I am sure it’s a matter of time," Simbua said, adding:

"There are some people who are aware of the importance of conserving marine resources."

There are 12 villages in the area and it is hoped that visitors to the marine park will help the local economy of this area, one of the poorest and least developed in Tanzania.

MBREMP is recognized as being internationally important for its biodiversity, with mangroves, sea grass beds and coral reefs.

Half natural world heritage sites threatened by industrial activities: WWF

GENEVA Switzerland (Xinhua) -- Nearly half of all natural world heritage sites are threatened by harmful industrial activities, such as oil and gas exploration, mining and illegal logging, according to a new report released Wednesday by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

The report, titled "Protecting People through Nature: Natural World Heritage Sites as Drivers of Sustainable Development", detailed global failures to protect UNESCO World Heritage sites.

According to the study, 114 natural and mixed World Heritage sites out of 229 either have oil, gas or mining concessions overlapping them or are under threat from at least one other harmful industrial activity.

For example, the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, the second largest coral reef system in the world, is shown to be at risk from unsustainable coastal construction, large-scale mangrove clearance, harmful agricultural run-off and the potential of dangerous oil exploration.

"World Heritage sites should receive the highest levels of protection, yet we are often unable to safeguard even this important fraction of the Earth’s surface," said Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International.

"We all agree that these are some of the most valuable and unique places on the planet, now we need to work together to let these sites provide for the well-being of people and nature," Lambertini noted.

WWF is asking the private sector to make no go commitments to refrain from activities that threaten to degrade World Heritage sites.

Financing should also be withheld from projects involving harmful industrial activities in World Heritage sites or the companies conducting them.

In addition, national governments should ensure that no harmful industrial activities are permitted in World Heritage sites or in areas that could negatively affect them.


Panamanian ship SEAGULL D pours fuel waste in Djiboutian waters

DJIBOUTI (Xinhua) -- A Panamanian ship has poured fuel waste in Djiboutian waters near Tadjourah gulf, about 15 km from Djibouti town, the country’s Coast Guard said in a statement.

The act, which was termed as "criminal" by Djiboutian authorities, was discovered on Friday by the Djibouti Coast Guard.

The statement said it was the trail of waste fuels in the sea that led them to the Panamanian ship, SEAGULL D.

The pollution affected "La Siesta" beach and its environs, and spread all the way to Mangrove beach that is frequented by Djiboutian and foreign tourists. The two beaches are currently inaccessible for swimming.

The Djibouti public prosecutor has opened a judicial investigation into the matter.

Djibouti launches project to protect mangroves

DJIBOUTI (Xinhua) -- Djibouti’s environment ministry has launched a climate change adaptation project in the northern region of Khor Angar and the southern region of Damerjog to protect mangrove swamps, official sources said on Monday.

The project which was funded by the Global Environment Fund (GEF), was prioritized in the National Adaptation Program of Action (NAPA) report on climate change that was prepared by Djibouti’s environment ministry.

Its main goal is to reduce risks linked to climatic changes for the production systems in the coastal zones through an integrated and participatory approach with local populations.

Through the project, it will be easier to predict future climatic changes, and also enable the local population to adopt better production methods.

The project will tackle the deeper causes of vulnerabilities in the country by targeting the ecosystems that need urgent rehabilitation.

Experts from Djibouti’s environment ministry said the project will promote conservation of ecosystems, increase resilience of the population to climate change and fight against poverty through utilization of skilled manpower.

The project will equally help to reduce environmental vulnerability of the ecosystems such as mangrove swamps, and at the same time, the losses caused by climatic catastrophes will be alleviated while capacity of disaster response units will be reinforced.

The two sites that were chosen were picked because of their vulnerability and due to the presence of key ecosystems such as mangroves. They were equally selected because they represent Djibouti’s main bioclimatic zones.

"Today, a huge section of Djibouti’s natural ecosystems such as mangroves have degraded due to human activities and environmental constraints. If nothing is done, the ongoing degradation will continue to pose a threat to the survival of coastal communities," experts from the environment ministry warned.

Currently, 40 hectares of mangrove swamps in Khor Angar have been cleared, two tree nurseries each holding 5,000 seedlings have been set up, and about 5 hectares of mangroves have been replanted.

Other rehabilitation activities have been completed in Damerjog and Khor Angar, especially in the area of water harvesting and promotion of renewable energies.


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