After heavy rains in 2010 that destroyed many mangroves and even reduced the income of fishermen in the Madzombani area, Mwakirunge in Mombasa County residents turned to charcoal burning for their livelihood.
Wilfred Zoka, a fisherman and a resident of the area, says that they were affected in those years. More so, mangroves started to decay and made the situation worse which led them to look for alternatives to protect the environment.
This led to efforts of plant mangrove seedlings which could help in conservation of the environment. However, despite these efforts, some residents were still cutting down the trees and making their efforts in vain.
More than 80 percent of mangroves were lost due to indiscriminate logging and even climate change. Despite reporting the loggers to the concerned authority the majority of the perpetrators were within their community and had no other means of earning a living.
“I was among those who cut down trees and use them as firewood and the mangroves produce very good charcoal for cooking ,I didn’t know it benefits and so I used them down, Agnes Mjeni regrettably explains.
But since she started seeing the benefits of the mangrove she says she cannot allow any person to cut down the trees and that is where as the group they had to find a permanent protector for the mangroves.
Mwinga Gonzi is the chairperson of the Amani Jipange peace group in the Madzombani area, a group of 20 members involved in beekeeping. A group which was started in the year 2012 to plant the mangrove in order to restore the mangrove forests but after realising still there was deforestation they engaged in beekeeping to protect the forest and also earn a living.
He excitedly explains why they chose bees as opposed to dogs that are commonly known as protectors: “I have different responsibilities apart from being chairman of the group so after pondering deeply we came up with bees as a solution because many people fear bee sting and beside it gives as honey which we can sell and get money.”
The group currently has 40 hives, some of which are privately owned by members and they can harvest between three to five hives every three months and one hive produces up to 10kgs of honey. The mangrove honey popularly known as ‘Asali Mikoko’ sells for between Ksh.800 and Ksh.1000.
Said Omar Wale, a 50-year-old crab fisherman with many years of experience in fishing, admits that since the introduction of mangrove planting and the introduction of beekeepers, his income has improved. Adding that he gets up to 4 kilograms in a day as opposed to when there was degradation of mangroves where he would not even get more than a kilo of crabs, commending the work of the group as he is also able to support his family from his source of income.
Environment experts say that bees are responsible for pollinating 80% of the cultivated crops. Professor Saeed Mwaguni is an environmental expert from Technical University of Mombasa and he notes that in a mangrove ecosystem, it’s easier for the bees to facilitate pollination because the habitat is already available.
The move also ensures that the number of bees increases as there has been concerns of declining bee populations due to the use of chemicals in plants but mangroves do not require such chemicals.
It is through such projects that even various government departments are supported. Julius Kamau is the head of Kenya Forest Services and praises the various community efforts to protect the mangrove ecosystem.
“As a government agency we are very committed to make a change in what has been there before and if you look at the mangrove ecosystem is a very critical one is the issue of climate change it helps us to mitigate and adapt and that is why we are happy with the communities for coming up with such life changing interventions,” he comments.