Many of you who have stayed at Camp Makongeni will have spent some time working with the Baraka Group in the mangroves. Recently we have scaled up the work and a lot more happening now but so much more to do. We haveåÊ recently been joined by two interns, Leyla and Kennedy who are specializing in Marine biology and environmental conservation so taking full advantage of them being around to start compiling more data on the work we are doing on mangrove conservation. Often, when people come out they are quite surprised to find that the marine conservation is actually based in a mangrove swamp. Five days later, I believe they understand the real value and importance of what we are doing in those mangroves and why it is such a critical aspect of marine conservation. I asked Layla and Kennedy to put a little something together to share… Mangroves are various kinds of trees and shrubs that grow in coastal areas of the tropics and the subtropics. They share the unique characteristic of being able to live where no other tree can: in areas that are inundated by salt water twice a day, and in soil which is highly unstable and poor in oxygen. They play a vital role in stabilizing and protecting the coastal ecosystem. Mangroves work as buffers between the land and the sea and in todayÛªs scenario of global warming, they are looked at as saviors. However, more than 35% of the worldÛªs mangroves are already gone and in some countries, figures are as high as 50%. About 90% of the global mangroves are growing in developing countries and they are critically endangered and nearing extinction in 26 countries. Threats to mangroves include: clearing to convert mangrove areas to other land uses such as agriculture, infrastructures and industrial areas; over harvesting for fuel wood and building poles; destruction of coral reefs, which provide the first barrier against currents and waves; pollution effects due to fertilizers, pesticides and other toxic man-made chemicals carried by river systems that can kill animals living in mangroves. Global warming will cause sea level to rise. Therefore, when most of the coastal areas are flooded, mangroves can possibly provide a gene bank for cultivating salt tolerant species of crops which could be our future resource. Mangroves not only act as a catalyst in reclaiming land from seas, but also help in preventing soil erosion. They protect the shoreline from damaging storm and hurricane, winds, waves and floods. They stabilize sediments with their roots and maintain water quality and clarity filtering pollutants and trapping sediments original from land. Mangroves forests are the breeding and nursery grounds for many marine organisms including commercially important species such as shrimps, molluscs, crabs and many fish species. Hence, loss of mangroves not only affects us indirectly, but also through direct economic repercussion on the fishing industry. Mangroves are also used as:
- A renewable resource, for durable, water resistant wood for house building, furniture.
- Telephone poles and certain household items.
- The wood of the black mangrove is also utilized to produce charcoal.
- Leaves are used in tea, medicine, livestock feed.
When these activities are managed properly, it is possible to derive all these resources without significant environmental degradation, and while maintaining their ecological and commercial value. This is what is happening at Makongeni. The Makongeni Camp started a mangrove conservation programme with the Baraka Mangrove Conservation group in 2010. The projects mainly aim to provide a sustainable method of income to the women and their families through fish, shrimp and crab farming, and to conserve and restore the mangrove forest of Makongeni through mangrove nursery and plantation; the construction of a board walk to prevent damages to mangroves and for ecotourism development. The area now has 9 ponds (some great work there), of which one is used for crab farming and 8 for fish and shrimp farming. There is also a ÛÏnurseryÛ pond, where fingerlings enter at high tide and remain trapped when the tide goes back. Fingerlings are then moved into the larger ponds. Two different species of fish are farmed: milkfish and bronze fish. Fish, shrimps and crabs are fed with molluscs collected by the women in the mangroves and are harvested every six months when they reach a certain size. The farmed fish is then sold by the women to the other members of the village and this allows them to have a secure source of income, as well as a perfect example of sustainable development. Mangrove seedlings (Rhizophora Mucronata species or Mkoko in Swahili, which is one of the 7 species of Mangroves found in the Kenyan coast that is grown by the Makongeni Women) are collected regularly and raised in the nursery until they are large enough to be planted, and are then planted in different areas as part of the restoration programme. Long-term projects involve the development of mangrove ecotourism. A board-walk is currently being constructed which will allow tourists to enjoy the beautiful scenery even at high tide and without damaging the mangroves (which already looks awesome!). Camp Kenya volunteers have been helping the womenÛªs group with every aspect of the mangrove conservation programme: pond digging, board walk construction, fingerlings collection, fish sampling to check fish growth, seedlings collection and potting. This is a great example of a long term ecotourism project which provides both protection to a key natural system which will become more and more important as sea level raises and a perfect scenario of a great Community Socio-responsibility thatÛªs successful so far!