Rooted in tranquility: A journey through Kenyan mangroves

Having spent a third of my life here on the Kenyan coast, I have grown to love the Indian Ocean and all the marine biodiversity that is found within this space. 

The ecosystems found along the coast and in the ocean are spectacular, but to me, mangroves ecosystems are especially remarkable. Their unique beauty inspired me to delve deeper into their intricacies, and with each day of learning about them, I came to really understand what these ecosystems mean to our lives here.

I discovered that despite all the benefits these mangroves give us, they are under threat: cut down for wood fuel and timber, while government policymakers clear them to make room for infrastructure. 

I realized there was an urgent need to act – especially seeing the lack of awareness in local communities on the importance of these ecosystems and the reasons as to why we should protect our mangroves. 

So, I decided to start my own mangrove eco-restoration project.

But why protect and restore mangroves? 

Good question! 

Mangroves are a vital part of Kenya’s coastal ecosystems. As one of nature’s most effective tools in the fight against climate change, they make coasts more resilient to disasters and are essential for the health and productivity of coastal communities. 
A visit to these ecosystems reveals their rich biodiversity, teeming with insects, birds, fish, crabs, and shrimps. This incredible diversity in species reiterates how helpful and important these mangroves are, not only to local communities but also to our broader environment.

Our team members taking mangrove seedlings during a planting activity. ZF Photography

Furthermore, mangroves play a critical role in climate regulation through carbon sequestration. Unlike terrestrial forests, which store most of their carbon in the trunk and branches of trees, mangroves store most of it in their root systems and nearby soil, acting as carbon ‘sinks,’ locking the carbon away for generations. 

Compared to terrestrial forests, the risk of fire – and the accompanying loss of stored carbon – is much lower. This makes mangroves a safe long-term carbon “investment”.

On a personal level, mangroves are symbols of resilience and hope. They are my happy place because every time I walk through them, I feel like I can breathe again.

Our ecosystem: The Mkupe mangroves

A section of our ecosystem in Mkupe viewed from a wider angle. Steve Misati

Our ecosystem, located on the outskirts of the city of Mombasa, consists of two different sites, both of which we are actively restoring: an upper site, spanning approximately 68 hectares, and a lower site, covering about 48 hectares.

The climate is hot, humid and tropical, with temperatures ranging between 24 and 30 degrees Celsius, and an average of between 1000 and 1600 mm of annual rainfall – making it well suited to restoration.

This ecosystem is uniquely situated near the settlements of Miritini, Changamwe, and Mombasa’s Old Town. This sets our project apart from other mangrove restoration projects in Kenya, which usually take place in marine rather than terrestrial settings.

Our restoration project also emphasizes the active participation of local communities. We use a technique called community-based ecological mangrove restoration (CBEMR), which sets out frameworks to restore degraded mangroves by imitating natural processes and prioritizing the involvement of local communities.

Our mangrove ecosystem in Mkupe viewed from a geomapping system. Restor

Meet the community behind our project

The team leading this restoration project, Youth Pawa, consists of seven inspired young people collaborating with 33 local community members who are invested in seeing these ecosystems thriving once again. 

The process of leading this team hasn’t been a walk in the park, but again, our mantra as a community is that challenges are opportunities to grow.

If there is something mangroves have taught me, it’s that nature takes every obstacle, every impediment, and works around it – using it for its purposes and incorporating it into itself. That’s why we will keep on conserving and fighting for these ecosystems.

Youth Pawa team members with other volunteers during one of our mangrove activation.
From top left: Eva, Patience, Mohammed, Tracy, Enock, Brian, Muna, Sally, Mwanaisha.
From bottom left: Ali, Yazid, Hannah, Steve, Mjomba. ZF Photography.

Ultimately, this project isn’t just about planting mangroves; it’s about leaving a legacy for future generations. It’s about proving that with dedication, collaboration and a little bit of hope, we can heal the planet, one mangrove at a time. 

Let’s not forget that a healthy and safe community here on the coast depends on the well-being of these mangrove ecosystems. With this in mind, it is our duty and responsibility to ensure that our mangrove environment thrives again. By restoring our hope and defending us from the climate and biodiversity crises, mangroves are truly invaluable allies. 

Article tags

Generation restorationrestoration stewardsYouth

Leave a Reply