The Lamu County Restoration Project (LCRP) is a 154,000+ hectare (ha) restoration initiative that seeks to balance conservation, restoration, and climate resilience of an important coastal ecosystem in Kenya. This project is an expansion and evolution of Eden’s ongoing mangrove reforestation work in the Southern Swamp management block of Lamu County. By expanding Eden’s restoration efforts to incorporate additional forest types and adding new initiatives to support the restoration’s long-term sustainability, Eden intends to restore ecological functionality, enhance human well-being, and preserve the natural heritage of Lamu County.
The island of Lamu is a well-known tourist destination on Kenya’s north coast. As one of East Africa’s oldest continuously inhabited Swahili towns, Lamu Old Town (on Lamu Island) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Lamu has a long trade history with countries throughout the Indian Ocean. This trade was built around the many uses of mangroves and their value to the global market throughout history. Mangroves in Lamu are used in everything from dhow (traditional sailboat) construction, traditional architecture techniques, tannins to dye leather, and charcoal production.
The Lamu archipelago is nestled within Kenya's largest continuous mangrove habitat, which represents 60% of Kenya’s entire mangrove forest cover. The degradation of Kenya’s mangroves has taken place over centuries, as they have undergone harvesting at various scales and intensities for at least 700 years. Today, the mangrove economy supports at least 30,000 families in Lamu County (Praxides, 2021). However, unsustainable harvesting and El Niño flooding in the late 1990s have led the Kenya Forest Service to classify 14,406 hectares of Lamu’s mangroves as degraded.
On a global scale, mangroves provide a variety of ecosystem services. Often called “blue carbon”, mangroves sequester 3-5 times more carbon than other forest types (Donato et al., 2011), providing essential carbon sequestration services that can contribute to the global fight against climate change. Mangrove forests also support natural fisheries, reduce the impact of storm surges and erosion, and provide timber and other forest products to communities around the globe (Spalding et al., 2014).
Outside the intertidal zone, Lamu’ County’s inland forests play an important role as wildlife corridors and in capturing freshwater to recharge groundwater and seasonal streams that support Lamu’s fringe mangrove system. Since 2001, Lamu’s inland coastal forests have lost 112,000 ha of tree cover, primarily driven by expanding agriculture, fires related to grazing, and charcoal production. It is estimated that 32% of Lamu County’s population lives in absolute poverty, with mangrove, fisheries, and agriculture—industries which are heavily impacted by degradation, deforestation, and climate change—providing the majority of household income. Mangroves play a vital role in the daily life of Lamu, as the complex root system of mangrove habitats supports fisheries for subsistence and livelihood. Fishing communities in Lamu County receive 70% of their income from Lamu’s natural fisheries, tying community livelihoods directly to the health of mangrove forests (Njenga et al., 2023). Additionally, agriculture accounts for 90% of the income for inland communities in Lamu County.
In 2020, Eden Reforestation Projects (Eden) began restoring Lamu County's mangrove landscape in collaboration with the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and local community associations. Eden's first seven planting sites in Lamu have generated early wins to support the ongoing restoration of this critical mangrove system. With the help of donors, Eden has put an estimated 1,120 hectares on a restoration trajectory, developed and scaled two innovative propagation and restoration methods, and provided fair wage employment and micro health insurance. Now, we are expanding this work to incorporate more degraded mangrove areas and broader initiatives to increase the long-term sustainability of this restoration. To learn more about the impact of this work and how Eden engages with communities in their vision for restoration, click here to hear from Hassan, one of our team leaders in Lamu.
The next phase of Eden’s work in Lamu will build on our local relationships to add new layers of activity to our restoration work. This includes the expansion of our coastal forest restoration work, introducing new agroforestry programs, and supporting the climate resilience of communities and the landscapes they depend on.
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Eden operates many reforestation sites in Kenya, including mangrove and afromontane forest types. For more information, please visit Eden’s website edenprojects.org.