Mangrove forests, seagrass meadows, saltwater marshes – these and other ‘blue forests’ are vital to coastal and island communities around the world
The Blue Forests Project includes two project sites in Kenya, the first is Mikoko Pamoja located in Gazi Bay and the second is Vanga Blue Forest, located in nearby Vanga Bay on the border with Tanzania. Both are community-based mangrove carbon finance projects certified through the Plan Vivo standard, and Mikoko Pamoja is the world’s first successful coastal 'blue carbon’ project, selling carbon credits with payments supporting mangrove conservation and restoration activities.
Each project site has followed a number of steps in order to be certified for the sale of carbon credits. The Project Design stage includes developing a project concept, choosing or developing a baseline and monitoring methodology, and stakeholder consultations. All of these elements are documented in the project design document (PDD).
Carbon assessment methodology for both project sites conforms to Plan Vivo Standard (PV) and Climate Community and Biodiversity Standard (CCBS) of the Voluntary Carbon Market.
The restoration methodology used at both sites conforms with PV standards as well as Verra’s Wetlands Restoration and Conservation (WRC), which is a framework for accounting emissions reductions in blue carbon ecosystems.
Blue Forests Ecosystems
Blue Forests Economy
Healthy mangroves also support other economic ventures at the project sites. For example, in Gazi Bay, the Gazi Women Mangrove Boardwalk is an ecotourism initiative managed by 27 Gazi women. The boardwalk extends to a loop of 300 meters, weaving through mangrove trees and offering excellent birdwatching opportunities. With approximately 1673 annual visitors, the $2 entry fee goes toward boardwalk repairs, buying school textbooks for children, and paying teachers at nearby schools. The boardwalk also serves as a hub for the sale of local products, supporting additional community incomes.
Blue Forests Policy
Local community participation and support are key factors in the success of Mikoko Pamoja and the establishment of Vanga Bay Blue forests. Community associations are a required part of Plan Vivo projects and help to ensure sustainable project results and equitable benefit sharing. The project sites have established two community association, the: Mikoko Pamoja Community Organization (MPCO) and the Community Forest Association (CFA) of Vanga Jimbo and Kiwegu VAJIKI.
A number of policies and measures have to be followed for the Kenyan government to authorize the sale of mangrove carbon credit. Clause 45 of Forest Act (2005) of the Laws of Kenya provides guidelines for community participation in the management of national forests. The Law allows Communities adjacent to these forests to register a community forest association (CFA) that can jointly manage a designated forest area with Kenya Forests Service (KFS) using an approved Participatory Forest Management Plan (PFMP).
The KFS approved the PFMP for Gazi and signed a Forest Management Agreement with the CFA that has allowed the community trade in mangrove carbon. Given the success of Mikoko Pamoja in demonstrating sustainable mangrove management, the project further seeks to influence national and international policy on integrating mangroves and associated ecosystems in national development and climate change agenda. We will continue working closely with KFS and other government agencies in engaging communities in sustainable utilization of mangrove resources; and in promoting nature-based enterprises in mangrove areas.
Blue Forests Communities
A number of measures have been taken to limit potential negative socio-ecological consequences for communities from the sale of carbon credits at both sites. Carbon offsetting via the sale of Plan Vivo Certificates (PVCs), each which represent the long-term sequestration or mitigation of one tonne of CO2e and a multitude of additional benefits, including:
Fairly traded carbon - Plan Vivo guarantees fair benefit sharing between participants and project coordinators, with at least 60% of the money from every PVC bought going directly to the participants;
Community-based management – the planning of activities and profit sharing is agreed upon by a community association and based on local needs and capabilities;
Independent certification and continued oversight. Four community associations have been set up in the Gazi, Vanga, Jimbo and Kiwegu villages.
Education and capacity building at both project sites has focused on engagement with local communities. This includes workshops and presentation on climate change, carbon offsetting, coastal ecosystems and their benefits, and restoration and monitoring.
Question 3 - Blue Forests Communities and Social Justice Webinar
Community Engagement (MPCO) engagement and distribution of profit: Local support and control have been essential components of the Mikoko Pamoja since its early beginnings. Mikoko Pamoja is run by a 13 member committee in a three years rotation period. The committee is democratically elected by the local people and is gender sensitive. Mikoko Pamoja ensures that community is involved in mangrove reforestation activities. Community engagement in benefit sharing, transparency and aware- ness creation have been pivotal for the success of the project.
Government Support: Through a participatory forest management plan, the government allocated 117ha of mangroves of Gazi to Mikoko Pamoja. This was in line with Forest Act (2005) that devolved forest management in the country from the central to local authorities, including communities. Within this enabling policy and legislative environment, Mikoko Pamoja has developed strong ties with KFS, the government line agency responsible for forest management in the country. Mikoko Pamoja has stimulated national policy on mangroves; including their incorporation in the updated Kenya’s nationally determined contributions (NDCs) to the Paris Agreement.
Volunteers and outside support: Local and distant volunteers have played a great role in sustaining Mikoko Pamoja. Committee members also participate freely in running project affairs and only compensated for their time during monitoring activities. It is only the project coordinator and the assistant that are in the Pay-roll of Mikoko Pamoja. Other essential entity is the Mikoko Pamoja Steering Group (MPSG); that provides technical support as well linking the project to external carbon buyers. MPSG comprise of KMFRI, KFS, Edinburgh Napier and Bangor Universities. Strong presence of KMFRI in Gazi has also contributed to the success of Mikoko Pamoja.
Carbon market: So far Mikoko Pamoja has managed to sell all carbon credits it generates into the Voluntary carbon market (VCM). This clearly shows that it is possible to sell carbon credits above the market price provided buyers are confident about the climate, community and biodiversity benefits. Though the VCM is currently stable and likely to grow in the future, marketing credits, cultivating buyers and negotiating the complexity of the market place have been a challenge. The project has been able to achieve these through a Scottish charity - the Association for Coastal Eco-system Services (ACES), which assists with selling Mikoko Pamoja’s carbon credits in the VCM.
Vulnerability of VCM: VCM has the flexibility to support relatively small, innovative projects such as Mikoko Pamoja. However, when compared to the compliance market, the VCM is volatile and less reliable. It is also vulnerable to bad publicity from fraudulent projects and, in the long term, will become irrelevant if IPCC and Paris targets are met. It may therefore be unwise to rely solely on the VCM for income. Financial and political vulnerability thus mark the main external risks to this project.
Technical requirements: Technical challenges encountered in the project included misunderstandings between the developers and the implementing team, particularly in the project monitoring. Such misunderstandings arose because different sets of volunteers were and are involved in different parts of project operation. It is therefore desirable if managerial, technical and operational teams can all be involved during the first iteration of essential tasks - such as monitoring.
Boundary delineation: Mikoko Pamoja protects an area of natural forest from all harvesting activities, but some encroachment into the project area still occurs. The project has put forth efforts to address illegal harvesting by constructing a watch tower and the employment of two scouts who man the project areas on daily basis. Still, illegal harvesting has been a problem. Some of these may be deliberate (illegal) cutting. Others, however, may reflect the lack of clear-cut boundaries showing the extent of Mikoko Pamoja protected area. Lack of sufficient funds limited initial demarcations of the project area. In the meantime this problem has been addressed using support through the Equator Prize.
Recruitment on restoration: Mikoko Pamoja ensures that the community is engaged in all project activities including nursery establishment, planting and monitoring. However, only few people can take part in the activity in a given time. This may make some community members feel as though there is lack of engagement of the community. The project, therefore, ensures that it choses different people to participate each time it is conducting restoration. Each team undergoes a brief training to ensure they undertake the activity accurately.
Equitable distribution of profit: Resources need to be allocated to the development of the forest management plan, as it can be quite an expensive process. The cost of developing a PFMP for Gazi Bay was estimated at US$ 30,000; much of which went to community negotiations and capacity building
Mikoko Pamoja & Vanga Blue Forest Projects:
Diving deeper into project pathways