MANGROVE CONSERVATION CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED.
Conservationists are alarmed by the loss of mangrove forest cover to illegal cutting of trees in Kwale County. Stakeholders contend that concerted effort is required in halting the illegal logging of mangrove forest for firewood and building materials saying those involved do not realize that indiscriminate felling of mangrove trees along the shoreline is illegal and destructive to the marine biodiversity.
Mangroves are rare, spectacular and prolific ecosystems on the boundary between lands and oceans and support a rich biodiversity besides providing a valuable habitat for fish and crustaceans. James Kairo, chief scientist at the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute says mangroves which thrive in salt water are regarded as the most valuable resource along the shoreline.“But illegal cutting of mangroves makes it a dwindling resource thus affecting livelihoods,” said Kairo.He said in recent years stakeholders have been able to plant about 30,000 mangroves in Kwale County alone.
Kairo said the damage done to mangrove swamps in the area is enormous besides exposing the coastline to the vagaries of weather and coastal erosion. Speaking in Vanga during a tree planting exercise Dr. Kairo said residents must value mangrove forests because they play a major role in the ecosystem. He said urgent concerted efforts are needed to save the unique mangrove forests before they are completely damaged and save the biodiversity and the livelihoods which depend on the mangroves for survival.
Dr. Kairo underscored mangrove conservation saying it is important in the fight against climate change and mitigates risks for coastal communities as well as being a defense against storm surges, tsunamis, rising sea level and soil erosion.“These trees are of much importance knowing that they purify the air we breathe not forgetting prevention of strong waves like tsunami,” he said. Dr. Kairo said 80 percent of fish caught in the coastal region depends on mangroves which need to be conserved to enhance food security.“Large percentages of fish found depends on these trees and at the coast people rely on fishing to sustain their livelihood hence imagine absence of such valuable trees,” said Dr. Kairo.
On his part, Kenya Chief Conservator of Forests for the Kenya Forest Service Julius Kamau said there has been an increase in fish production since the campaign for mangrove planting was initiated in Kwale in 2008. “Before 2008 Vanga used to get 3 tons of fish per year but after creating awareness on the importance of environmental conservation mostly by planting trees they now produce 12,000 tons annually” he said. Kamau however, urged local residents to preserve forests for their own benefit and for posterity. “When we are told to safeguard our environment, we are not doing it for anyone but rather for ourselves for good health and prosperous lives,” he said.
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