Swahili Seas
  People living on the coast of East Africa are amongst the World's poorest. They rely heavily on local ecosystems for their livelihoods and security; for example mangrove forests provide them with firewood, fish, medicines and protection from floods and coastal erosion. Despite the importance of mangroves they are suffering high rates of destruction. This project will pioneer new ways of studying, evaluating and managing mangroves, and will communicate the lessons learnt to groups working in other types of ecosystems.
Mangrove forests are highly productive and efficient at capturing carbon, much of which ends up buried below ground and can therefore be permanently stored away from the atmosphere. This opens up possibilities for using payments for carbon credits to help mangrove conservation and to bring revenue for local people. This project will initiate a real demonstration of how to achieve this, combining the expertise of Kenyan and UK scientists, accreditation by a third party charity and the commitment and organisation of the Gazi Womens' Mangrove Boardwalk Committee. A Kenyan sociology student will make a detailed study of the development of this project to record the lessons learnt. She will particularly focus on how different groups, such as men and women and old and young, become engaged and benefit, on how the management of the mangrove resource works and on how this project can inform others in the region that use payments for ecosystem services.
The value of mangrove ecosystems to local people, and particularly to the poor, is often underestimated by developers and politicians. Full estimations of economic value for individual sites can be difficult and expensive - one option is to transfer the results from well studied areas to other sites, but this approach is untested for mangroves and may lead to large errors. We will test this 'benefit transfer' approach by measuring a range of direct use values (including for fuelwood, timber, crabs and shrimp) at seven different sites in Kenya. By looking for correlations between these results and variables that can help predict them, such as levels of poverty and population density, and by comparing what local people say about the value of their mangrove resources, we will determine the reliability of benefit transfer between sites, which will allow us to calculate the economic value of the mangrove resource in Kenya.
Since carbon storage is a key benefit of mangroves it is important for developing countries to know the extent of their forests and the biomass of carbon in them, but measuring this on the ground is expensive and difficult. We will use remote sensing techniques to develop 'carbon landscapes' for East Africa that identify the biomass of carbon (including that stored below-ground) in different areas. We will combine these maps with 'risk maps' and 'value maps' that show areas under high threat and with high value, and present these on a user-friendly platform that can be accessed by government and NGOs when developing projects and policy.
It is essential that developing countries have the capacity to identify threats to their people's livelihoods and to respond to international opportunities for conservation financing, such as those coming from climate change negotiations. Unfortunately there is often an over-reliance on expensive, overseas consultants. This project builds on eight years of collaboration between Kenyan and UK scientists with a track record of training for African colleagues. We will continue this tradition by training three students to masters level, by giving bespoke business and entrepreneurial training to help ensure follow-on funding and by working together on papers and new proposals. We have established an East African forum to ensure good regional communication on the science and practice of payments for ecosystem services. This will be further developed and new links with relevant experience in West Africa will be established.

  • Start Date:

    1 September 2010

  • End Date:

    30 September 2013

  • Activity Type:

    Externally Funded Research

  • Funder:

    Natural Environment Research Council

  • Value:


Project Team