Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute’s scientist Dr James Kairo, is among eight scientists from around the world, and the only one in Africa, named the 2019 recipient of the Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation.
Other 2019 Pew Fellows are Apple Pui Yi Chui (China), Shari Fox (USA), Rima Jabado (United Arabs Emirates), Loren McClenachan (USA), Jamaluddin Jompa (Indonesia), Haruko Kurihara (Japan), Richard Sherley (UK).
The eight conservationists are working on critical issues ranging from ocean acidification, coral reef and mangrove loss, to fisheries management and declining populations of highly threatened species such as guitarfish and African penguins. These individuals and their projects were selected for their significant promise in protecting a diverse group of marine species and habitats.
“As climate change, habitat loss, and overfishing increasingly affect marine ecosystems, supporting technical experts to address these challenges and increase the effectiveness of marine resource management has never been more important,” said Rebecca Goldburg, director of the environmental research and science program at The Pew Charitable Trusts. “This new class of fellows will join a cadre of previous recipients who are working to tackle the growing challenges of ocean conservation.”
Dr Kairo, fondly referred to as “The Mangrove Man of Africa” will be looking at how mangroves could be integrated into Kenya’s nationally determined contribution (NDC) under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Research in Kenya and elsewhere has showed that mangroves capture and store huge stocks of carbon. This carbon risks being released back to the atmosphere when mangroves are degraded or their land is converted for other land uses; leading to global warming. As part of the project, Dr Kairo will train forest managers and communities on mangrove restoration approaches as well as measure the size, productivity, and biodiversity of mangrove forests in Lamu County, Kenya.. This information could influence how mangroves are valued, managed, and protected in Kenya.
Dr Kairo is also one of the initiators of the award winning Mikoko Pamoja – the first community type project to restore and protect mangroves through sale of carbon credits. Sustainable management of coastal and marine resources is critical to realization of Blue Economy. Mikoko Pamoja is verified by Plan Vivo System and Standards to trade about 3000tCO2 per annum into the voluntary carbon market for a crediting period of 20 years (starting 2013). Revenue generated (of about KSh 1.5m per annum) is used to support community projects in water and sanitation, education, and environmental conservation. Local people make spending decisions democratically and investments have included the purchase of new schoolbooks, games kits, furniture and provision of water points. At least 73% of the 6000 resident population in Gazi and Makongeni villages rely on water points provided by Mikoko Pamoja.
“Mangrove forests in Kenya capture and stores 5-10 times much carbon than their terrestrial counterparts. But mangrove forests are under increasing threats ranging from overharvesting of wood products, clearance of mangrove area for other land uses, such as; pond aquaculture, infrastructure development, and rice farming, and pollution. Climate change threatens to impact the remaining mangroves particularly through sea level rise, aridity, and increased sedimentation. Over the last four decades, Kenya has lost 40% of her 60,000ha mangroves,” said Dr Kairo.
Plans are underway to replicate the Project in the neighboring village of Vanga as part of upscaling Mikoko Pamoja. Funding from UK’s NERC/ESPA program, the UNEP/GEF Blue Forest Project, International Coral Reef Initiative as well as Leonardo Di Caprio Foundation, has supported development and upscaling of Mikoko Pamoja.
About Pew Fellow Program
Since 1996, the Pew Fellows Program in Marine Conservation has rewarded 172 marine experts in 39 countries. Fellows receive $150,000 each to implement a three-year project that addresses ocean conservation problem. Each recipient is a midcareer scientist or expert with an outstanding record of using high-quality research to support more effective protections for the world’s marine life.
Fellowship projects often continue to have marine conservation impacts long after a recipient’s term has concluded. For example, projects have led to designations of new protected areas, improved fisheries management, and better conservation of marine wildlife. In addition, fellows are often able to leverage their colleagues’ expertise through collaborations to take on some of the world’s urgent ocean threats.
Pew marine fellows are selected by an independent international committee composed of senior professionals in marine science and conservation.