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African countries turn to mangrove forest projects to tackle climate issues

In a bid to protect coastal communities from climate change and encourage investment, African nations are increasingly turning to mangrove restoration projects, with Mozambique the latest addition to a growing list of countries with initiatives. large-scale mangrove.

Mozambique follows efforts across the continent – including in Kenya, Madagascar, Gambia and Senegal – and is touted as the largest carbon storage project in coastal or marine ecosystems in the world.

Known as blue carbon, the carbon captured by these ecosystems can sequester or remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere at a faster rate than forests, despite being smaller in size.

The Mozambique Mangrove Restoration Project – announced in February alongside UAE-based partner Blue Forest Solutions – hopes to transform 185,000 hectares (457,100 acres) in the central provinces of Zambezia and southern Sofala into a forest that could capture up to 500,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, according to project developers.

People plant mangroves during a community exercise to restore their habitat in Mtwapa on Kenya’s Indian Ocean coast (AP)

“Blue carbon can be used not only to sequester tons of carbon dioxide, but also to improve the lives of coastal communities,” Vahid Fotuhi, chief executive of Blue Forest, told The Associated Press.

“There are about one million hectares of mangrove forests in Africa. Collectively, they are able to sequester more carbon dioxide than the total annual emissions of a country like Croatia or Bolivia.

He added that these projects would create green jobs and promote biodiversity.

Africa’s main mangrove forests have been decimated in recent decades due to logging, fish farming, coastal development and pollution, leading to increased blue carbon emissions and greater exposure of coastal communities vulnerable to flooding and other threats to livelihoods.

But the continent’s growing focus on mangrove restoration can be partly attributed to the successful Mikoko Pamoja project, launched in 2013 in Kenya’s Gazi Bay, which has protected 117 hectares (289 acres) of mangrove forest and replanted 4 000 trees per year, spurring other countries to also address their damaged coastal lands and recreate its success.

Mikoko Pamoja, Swahili for “mangroves together,” has focused her efforts on protecting small communities in the villages of Gazi and Makongeni from coastal erosion, fish loss and climate change.

It has been dubbed the “world’s first blue carbon project” and has earned the community of just 6,000 people worldwide fame, accolades, carbon money and a better standard of living.

“Mikoko Pamoja has led to the development of projects in the community, including water installation,” said Iddi Bomani, the village chairman of Gazi community.

Lucy Jarju works to catch fish in the Gambia River mangroves in Serrekunda, Gambia (Leo Correa/AP)

“Everyone has water available in their house.”

“This especially leads to improved livelihoods through job creation when done by the communities,” added Mikoko Pamoja committee member Laitani Suleiman.

Several other projects have since emerged.

In Senegal, 79 million replanted mangroves are expected to store 500,000 tonnes of carbon over the next 20 years.

Neighboring Gambia launched its own reforestation effort in 2017, and Madagascar followed suit with its own preservation project two years later.

Egypt is planning its mangrove restoration project ahead of hosting the UN climate conference in November this year.

The projects have sparked a clamor for the sale of carbon credits, a type of permit that allows a certain amount of emissions as payment for forest restoration or other carbon offset projects.

Gabon was recently offered a $17m (£13.7m) pay package through the Central African Forest Initiative over its protection efforts, but complaints persist on the low prices offered to African governments.

Low estuary tide exposes oysters growing in the Gambia River mangroves at Serrekunda (Leo Correa/AP)

“Africa remains excluded from a lot of funding available under climate change,” said Jean Paul Adam, head of the climate division at the Economic Commission for Africa, adding that a lack of funding means that the nations of the continent are unable to build resilience to climate change.

He added that “nature-based solutions and promoting a fair development price for carbon” would propel the African economy.

And the benefits of reforestation can be significant, according to Marissa Stein of Coral Reef Alliance.

“Restoring and protecting our marine habitats plays a key role in maintaining the health of our planet,” she said, adding that mangroves alone store up to four times more carbon per hectare. than tropical rainforests.

The Global Mangroves Alliance also estimates that mangroves reduce damage and flood risk for 15million people and can prevent more than $65billion (£52.5billion) in property damage each year.

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