Mikoko Pamoja – Blue Forest project funded by Dicaprio

C-Level uses micro-documentaries to support indigenous climate projects and sustainable development, and last year the company was asked to create one of its signature short films about a project on the coast of East Africa. This project in the mangroves enables people in business to compensate for their carbon footprint in an extraordinary way—a way that is protecting an ecosystem, creating social value in a community, and creating a positive balancing of a businesses carbon footprint.

Fast forward: The film was made, the project wins the UN Equator Award, and Leonardo DiCaprio’s name and cash align with rolling out the project to a new beach and a new community—all in 2017.

Blue Forests Carbon

Mikoko Pamoja, is the project name and the Swahili phrase for people and mangroves together. This “blue forest” project builds on the power of mangroves to lock up carbon from the atmosphere at over 10 times the rate of forests on land. Mangroves—aka blue forests—are strong climate players; they also serve as nursery providers for vital fish stocks and barrier providers that protect coasts from erosion and flooding.

The Mikoko Pamoja film project brought together university academics, Gazi Bay coastal villagers, the mangrove ecosystem, and businesses like Aviva plc, that see the chance to align with carbon reduction and the global sustainable development goals.

Benefits of Low-Tech

Our filming approach is different, as evident in the making of the micro-documentary “Mikoko Pamoja Blue Forests.” Mark Huxham, a professor at Edinburgh Napier University, and the project team had been trying to get a video made for some time—a process that’s often difficult and can get complex, costly, and distracting for teams immersed in the field.

When C-Level was engaged, working with a small budget, the first tasks were to review any available visuals and to start assembling the projects story. In April, I was introduced via Skype to Ankje Frouws, a young Dutch volunteer based in Gazi Bay. As we talked, it became clear that Ankje was up for the challenge of becoming a filmmaker. She turned out to be brilliant and, working from the storyline for this 101vision, a steady stream of clips began to slowly upload out of the mangrove swamp.

Equipped with a modest camera, Ankje captured some lovely shots. When concerns about technical quality (big cameras and highly trained operators) are left behind, someone truly embedded in a project can take the time and choose their moments to film. Our Tom Sands cracked on with the editing, and by the end of May, out came a great little film.

This collaborative project was completed on a rapid turnaround without spending a fortune—and without pumping several tonnes of film crew CO2 into our overloaded atmosphere.

An International Honor

The United Nations Development Programme runs the Equator Initiative focused on finding the best global examples of indigenous communities achieving sustainable development by working with nature.

Over 800 projects were nominated in 2017 for the project’s signature Equator Prize, and in September Mikoko Pamoja’s Kenyan coordinator Josphat Mwamba was flown to New York to pick up the award (including a $10,000 cheque for the community). Josphat was alongside 14 other people representing the very diverse winning communities, including Novia Sagita of Yayasan Planet Indonesia. While at the event, he explained the inspiration behind the film:

“We represent indigenous peoples and local communities who are stewards of the oceans, creating innovative ecotourism, restoring and managing over 50,000 hectares of mangroves, and establishing locally-managed marine protected areas in Indonesia, Thailand, and Kenya.”

Angel Gurria, Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, reminded the audience to follow the steps of the Equator Prize winners in achieving the worldwide sustainable development goals.

“The Equator Prize winners tonight are showing us a different pathway forward,” he said. “They are showing us that by investing in nature, they are able to achieve their own sustainable development goals, often at a very low cost, and with a very high return on investment. Now it’s our turn.”

Scaling Up Blue Forests

The next East African blue forest project is down the Kenyan coast at Vanga Bay, home to the largest area of mangroves in Kenya.

In September, Leonardo DiCaprio stood at the Yale Climate Conference and announced his foundation’s support for the Vanga project blue. DiCaprio’s $50,000 award will enable some 200 hectares of mangroves—about 20 times the sizes of Mikoko Pamoja—to be monitored and developed as a new Plan Vivo project (the global certification body and network for Plan Vivo or Living Plan Projects). Both projects are certified under the global Plan Vivo Standard, which issues the certificates used to carbon balance a business’s annual carbon footprint.

Mark Huxham says he and the diverse teams, organizations, and volunteers working on the ground in Kenya can now bring blue forest scaling into full focus. These blue forests on the tropical coast of Kenya provide a way for businesses to balance carbon footprints and connect their employees with indigenous communities, which often are hit first by the changing climate.

“Protecting mangroves helps the people who rely on them, the wildlife that lives in them, and the climate upon which we all depend,” Mark says.

The full version of this post was first published in  B Corp’s BTheChange on Medium.