How mangrove forests helped stall environmental crime

The majestic mangrove forests of Kenya’s east coast have helped to bring levels of poaching and logging down, while taking large quantities of carbon out of the air.

To a visitor travelling south from Mombasa to savour the rich culture of the Swahili, the village of Gazi passes for a sleepy settlement in an almost forgotten stretch of the rapidly developing Kenyan coast. Inside the closely built mud-walled houses of the village, the day begins with a prayer call from the village mosque before dawn. Soon, early risers return from the shoreline with fish stocks that will supply Gazi’s traders for the day. Later on in the day, women bake flatbreads on roadside hearths to sell to visiting fishermen from as far as Tanzania, while male elders play draft, a local social pastime, on shaded patios.

Life was not always so peaceful in Gazi – eight years or so ago, things looked very different. The harvesting of mangroves for firewood and construction poles had depleted the local forests. Fish stocks had declined, threatening the livelihoods of the 80% of the village who depend on the sea, says local fisherman Abdallah Mohamed. Without fish, locals turned to charcoal burning and harvesting the region’s indigenous trees for firewood, which they would sell in nearby towns. In the wider region, illegal poaching of elephant, rhino and game was rife.

But today, the village has a new health centre, school and boreholes for fresh water. In the wider region illegal poaching of iconic wildlife like rhino and elephant has fallen by 90% in six years, according to the Kenya Wildlife Service


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