Mangrove Restoration in Kenya: Constraints and Prospects



Kairo, J. G.

Mangrove Systems Information Service

Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute

P.O. Box 81651, Mombasa




The restoration of mangrove systems has received a lot of attention worldwide. The reasons for increased interests are fourfold. First, the long ignored ecological and environmental values of mangrove forests have scientifically been documented for many mangrove areas in the world. Secondly, there is a high subsistence dependence on natural resources from mangrove forests. Thirdly, large losses of mangroves have occurred throughout the world, some of which in need of urgent attention. Fourthly. governments throughout the world are showing commitment towards sustainable development of mangrove areas.

In Kenya, the destruction of mangrove areas is approximated at 600ha/year. Such destruction has been attributed to, unchecked heavy cutting of the trees for building and firewood, fishpond ventures, solar salt works and pollution effects. The loss of mangrove forests in turn is affecting the local economy, as indicated by shortage of building poles and firewood, damage to agricultural fields, destruction of corals, and decreasing fishery resources. The damage can be overcome by restoration of mangrove areas.

Recognizing the ecological and economic importance of mangroves the local community at Gazi bay, in cooperation with the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) initiated a community participatory forestry for the rehabilitation of degraded mangrove areas of Gazi bay in 1991. The program got momentum in 1992/3 when aid was received from Biodiversity Support Program, A USAID - funded consortium of World Wildlife Fund, Nature Conservancy and the World Resources Institute. Some 300,000 mangrove trees were planted. The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and KMFRI are planning similar undertaking to rehabilitate critically degraded mangroves of river Ramisi

Results obtained so far indicate that it is possible to implement mangrove reforestation programs in Kenya. For these programs to succeed, they must be fully understood, accepted and supported first and foremost by the inhabits of the area. Over-exploitation of mangroves in Kenya occurs due a lack of awareness of the problems of deforestation, than to a lack of economic alternatives. Policy makers, developers and the general public generally do not understand the need or the urgency to protect these resources. The attitude that the benefits derived from protection are minimal when compared to the benefits of the activities which degrade these ecosystems must be changed. A policy statement on the multiple use management of mangrove resources should be formulated and politically supported at the highest level of government.