On the Indian Ocean coast of Kenya near the city of Mombasa, a vast line of greenery stretches along the shore of Tudor Creek. These are mangroves, and they play a crucial role in keeping the coastal ecosystem healthy for people and wildlife alike – not to mention serving as a natural carbon sink. Mangroves help prevent erosion, provide habitat to a myriad of species and sustain the livelihoods of local communities.
It hasn’t always been that way, though. For decades, the area’s mangroves had been severely degraded by overexploitation for wood, land clearance for salt production, port development and oil spills – until a team of young restorers and conservationists decided to turn the tide. Enter Levis Sirikwa – a marine ecologist, 2023 Ocean Restoration Steward and co-founder of the Ceriops Environmental Research Organization. The group is implementing a mangrove restoration model known as Mikoko na Jamii (‘mangrove and communities’ in Swahili), which blends scientific and Indigenous knowledge, placing the community at the forefront of restoration.
To support Levis and other young landscape leaders, the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) offers mentorship and grant funding for grassroots restoration projects through its Restoration Stewards program. Levis served as an Ocean Restoration Steward in 2023. In October, members of the GLF team traveled to Mombasa to visit Levis’ project with support of Ceriops lead community engagement officer Zipporah Chalwa and site forester and manager Fada Suleiman Juma, who served as the guide.
Here’s a selection of photos from the trip, along with some interesting facts you should know about mangroves.
The mangrove restoration site is located in Tudor Creek, a large water body close to Kenya’s second-largest city, Mombasa.
Suleiman and the GLF team on the way to the restoration site, where local communities are waiting to welcome them.
Dense tangles of roots allow mangroves to handle daily rise tidal fluctuations as well as reduce soil erosion.
Suleiman explains the different ways to manage mangroves and seedlings.
Kenya is home to nine identified mangrove species, four of which are mainly used for restoration on the country’s Indian Ocean coast. Each species has a different type of propagule – a part of a plant that can be used to grow a new plant.
The age of a seedling can be estimated by counting the nodes on the stem. For example, these red mangrove seedlings are three months old.
Locals demonstrate how to drill holes in the ground to plant seedlings using short mangrove logs.
A local woman demonstrates how to plant mangrove seedlings, which should be spaced 1–2 meters apart.
Suleiman (center) with GLF youth coordinator Eirini Sakellari (left) and GLF speakers coordinator Sara Mancinelli.
Freshly planted mangroves. It will take them 10–20 years to reach maturity.
Mangrove ecosystems are well suited to beekeeping. At Levis’ site, bees use the black mangroves to produce honey.
Mangroves are home to significant animal biodiversity such as birds, prawns, fish and even crabs – a local delicacy.
Happy faces all around as the GLF team and community members plant mangroves together!
Three of the people who helped organize the trip. Levis, Zipporah and Suleiman (left to right).