Kilifi fishing villagers opt to protect mangroves

Residents of a remote fishing village in Kilifi County have embraced the conservation of mangroves as they believe the natural heritage was the key to safeguarding their economy.

Villagers in Dabaso near the Mida Creek have over the years come to appreciate that their livelihoods depend on the mangroves.

Mida creek a 32 square kilometre of waterways is today a maze of lush mangrove forests that line the meandering water channels.

Villagers say the mangrove conservation efforts have helped bring back marine life like fish and seashells that once used to be plenty in the coastline.

Mangroves are semi-submerged evergreen trees and shrubs that grow in tropical estuaries and help preserve fish and other marine life.

Like everywhere in the world the mangroves in the area were under threat as the plants’ trunks were being cut for timber, poles and burned for charcoal leading to a sharp decline in the yields of fishery products.

In 2002, Mida Creek Community Conservation (MCCC) was formed to protect and create awareness about mangrove conservation in the region.

Villagers benefit from conservation activities as the forests are breeding grounds of fish, prawns, crabs and other shellfish which are sources of food and income for the local communities.

Dickson Mizinga of MCCC says the destruction of mangroves was increasingly threatening the sustainability of coastal and marine resources.

The local conservationist says protecting the mangrove ecosystem would allow creatures like crabs and fish to flourish.

The conservation efforts have given us the sense of ownership over the forest, he said, adding that people’s life depend on the mangroves.

We now recognize the value of protecting mangroves as they provide important fishing grounds as well as preventing coastline erosion and we are determined to use them in a more sustainable way, he said.

Mizinga says the conservation group combats illegal mangrove cutting and destructive fishing methods and seeks to provide alternative livelihoods opportunities for the inhabitants.

He says the forest initially faced illegal logging, over-fishing and pressures of land clearance for human habitation.

He adds that due to the conservation efforts Mida Creek has now become lush green mangrove forest that saves villagers’ dwellings from the scourge of sea erosion and intensive storms.

MCCC has also developed a crab shack restaurant floating on stilts above the waters and the menu is based entirely on seafood specifically crabs, oysters and prawns.

The crab fattening and fish farming are done in floating cages in the Mida creek and is a primary source of food and income to community members.

Elevated wooden boardwalks enable visitors to explore the extraordinary diverse mangroves, water birds and other marine life and visit the crab shack at the edge of the mangrove forest with panoramic views of the creek.

School children, university researchers and tourists often visit the creek keen to learn about the mangrove conservation driven by the villagers.

Source: Kenya News Agency