Napier Uni’s mangrove project wins UN Equator Prize
An Edinburgh Napier project which protects fast-disappearing mangrove forests and breathes new life into poor East African communities has been honoured by the United Nations. ‘Mikoko Pamoja’ – which involves university scientists working with Kenyan researchers and local villagers to preserve the efficient carbon traps – has been named as one of the winners of the Equator Prize 2017.
Judges from the UN Development Programme hailed it as an “outstanding example of nature-based local solutions to sustainable development”, and the award will be presented at a high-profile ceremony in New York on Sunday.(September 17).
Mikoko Pamoja – ‘Mangroves Together’ in Swahili – is a community-led project in the Gazi Bay area, 50km south of the Kenyan city of Mombasa, which combines forest conservation with local development.
Mangrove forests protect coastal communities from storms and tsunamis and are efficient natural carbon sinks, locking and storing CO2 at up to five times the rate of tropical rainforests. They also form an important habitat for fish and wildlife. However, they are being destroyed at an alarming rate, threatening the livelihoods of local farmers and fishermen and triggering the release of greenhouse gases.
The Mikoko Pamoja project has involved Edinburgh Napier staff and students working with the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute to explore the ecological value of mangroves and methods of helping the ecosystem recover.
It raises money by selling carbon credits to people and organisations anxious to reduce their carbon footprint, through the Scottish charity ACES (WWW.ACES-ORG.CO.UK). This supports the planting and conservation of mangrove trees as well as a community fund which has provided school buildings, textbooks and new sources of clean water.
Mikoko Pamoja was chosen as one of 15 winners of the Equator Prize 2017 following a review of 806 nominated projects from 120 countries. Each of the winners also receive $10,000.
Professor Mark Huxham (above), who leads Edinburgh Napier’s work in the area, said: “This is a wonderful endorsement of the hard work of local people in Kenya to conserve their mangrove forests. Mikoko Pamoja shows how we can come together across nations, cultures and disciplines to make a difference to climate change and to conservation.
“Recognition by the United Nations will help us to expand this work to other African mangrove forests and look for new partners keen to reduce their carbon footprints.”
Dr James Kairo, head of mangrove research at the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute, said: “This project shows how nature-based solutions to the challenges of climate change can work. In Kenya and East Africa, we are leading on involving communities in managing their Blue Carbon resources to help achieve sustainable development.”