We sat down to chat with Mwanarusi and Rahma who manage the blue carbon projects at Mikoko Pamoja and Vanga Blue Forest in Kenya to talk about all things mangrove restoration and community life. Read more about it below.
Ocean Bottle: What does a day in the life of Vanga Blue Forest & Mikoko Pamoja project community look like?
Mwanarusi Mwafrica: Activities vary from day to day depending on the work plan. For instance, at times a day begins in collecting mangrove data from the Vanga mangrove forest in collaboration with members of the Vanga community and Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute. This is a whole day activity as it starts at the early morning hours and ends late afternoon hours.
A day spent in the office relates to answering work related emails, online / one on one interviews and meetings with various stakeholders (both local and international), planning of project activities and budgeting of VBF activities in collaboration with the committee members, mangrove data entry, reporting on progress of project activities to ACES and other stakeholders. and also engaging with the community members in consultative meetings (village barazas) on prioritization of projects.
Rahma Kivugo: Interacting with people from different walks of life has you learning quite a lot about yourself and your surroundings. You get to appreciate life for what it is and have you positively waiting for the next day. I consider myself lucky to wake up each day to do what I love, which has always been something related to environmental sustainability, and the people here are a major plus. Some situations will force me out of my comfort zone that actually helps cultivate strength and resilience within me. A day has me mostly thinking about integrating, mainstreaming and translating, whatever knowledge or skill I have into something that can be actualised for the benefit of the local or even the non-local communities.
Ocean Bottle: What does restoring / looking after the mangroves mean to you?
Mwanarusi Mwafrica: Restoration activities are a game changer! Mangrove conservation and restoration is not only a source of bread and butter to me but also a reflection of the effort of my own community and support from project partners that I picture a better tomorrow (that is a healthier environment, enhanced biodiversity and productivity).
More to that, seeing the livelihoods of the community members being improved through education, health and environment sector, as a result of funds derived from restoration and conservation efforts, I’d advocate for continued effort even beyond Vanga.
Rahma Kivugo: Mangrove restoration means contributing to a greater good, larger than myself. It is a sense of fulfilment knowing that the little effort made in conservation impacts not just who is closest to you, but also things and people beyond your reach, seen or unseen, helping to create a most needed balance between the living and non-living. It is a new page of knowledge every single time, enlightening me and giving me new discoveries each day. It is a practical experience of what's learnt from taught or written information, which makes it all the more interesting to me.
Ocean Bottle: How has the Vanga Blue Forests and Mikoko Pamoja project changed your life and that of your community?
Mwanarusi Mwafrica: The projects have improved my standards of living through employment and widened my network sphere (both scientists, local leaders, community members and traditional/cultural knowledge on mangrove resource management). They have positively impacted my community in many ways, through Covid relief support of food and sanitisers during the start of Covid-19 pandemic, period poverty support to young school girls and improved the health system within the community by providing furniture including storage facility.
Rahma Kivugo: The greatest impact of the project to my community has been the appreciation of the ecosystem adjacent to them. It is from the constant engagement of the locals in the implementation of the project activities from inception that got them to this point, where they recognise and hold so much regard to the mangrove ecosystems they conserve, which then rewards them for their efforts in various avenues such as education, water and sanitation, health, job creation, etc. It is from such realisations where fulfilment is obtained, knowing that efforts made by people before you and from you, will serve across several generations to come, sharing a similar vision and working towards the same goal.
This week we are offsetting 100kgs of CO2 through these blue carbon ecosystems for every Ocean Bottle sold this week. Shop now to get yours.