They protect seagrass meadows and coral reefs from silting; they protect crops and drinking water from salt water contamination; and they are a natural defence against sea storms and coastal erosion. But mangroves are in rapid decline globally. Local communities and people from further afield, enter the communal forests to cut mangrove poles for timber. In Kenya, this has resulted in the destruction of 20% of mangroves over the last 30 years. This loss has resulted in the decline of fish stocks. Since villagers get almost all their protein from fish, this hits hard at the most basic level. The delicate marine ecosystems are also impacted and the seagrass meadows and coral suffer from silting and pollution from the land. Flooding from sea storms has also increased. Through Mikoko Pamoja, the “Blue Forests” are now being protected and seen for their true value.
Local people now have long term security of protein from viable fisheries, crops are protected and the coast is naturally defended against sea storms. The community decides how they want to spend the project income. Making sure each child has a school book has been an early priority… and the schools are now sending students on to high schools for the first time. Pumps funded by Mikoko Pamoja also provide clean drinking water for several hundred children in the two primary schools in Gazi and Makongeni. 4,500 people in the wider community also benefit from clean drinking water. People no longer carry water from a far. Jobs have been created for two forest guards and one coordinator. The vision for Mikoko Pamoja is to ensure enough support is found to keep the project developing, and to roll out the project as a flagship for other “Blue Forest villages” in Kenya and elsewhere. The first replication of the project is already underway at Vanga Blue Forest, close to Tanzania.
After winning the prestigious United Nations Development Programme Equator Award in 2017, the project was awarded funding through the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation. This funding has enabled the projects expansion to prove scalability.