Mikoko Pamoja: Nurturing Nature, Empowering Communities

6 min readJan 25, 2024

Amidst the sun-kissed landscapes of Kenya’s southern coast, the villages of Gazi and Makongeni in Kwale County hold a tale that resonates far beyond their coastal borders. This is the tale of the Mikoko Pamoja project — a vibrant symphony of environmental stewardship, community resilience, and transformative impact, rooted in the Gazi Women’s pioneering initiative that set off in 2009.

Mikoko Pamoja, meaning ‘mangroves together’ in Swahili, is not just a project; it’s a harmonious endeavor fostering biodiversity conservation, climate action, and community prosperity. Join us on this inspiring journey where nature and humanity compose a melody of positive change.

Mangroves: Guardians of Coasts and Communities

Mangroves stand as nature’s fortress along coastlines, offering a crucial shield against erosion and storm surges. Beyond their protective role, these unique ecosystems play a pivotal role in supporting biodiversity, providing a habitat for various marine species. Importantly, mangroves act as frontline warriors in the battle against climate change by sequestering substantial amounts of carbon, mitigating its impacts.

Moreover, they are lifelines for coastal communities, offering sustenance through fisheries, safeguarding against natural disasters, and providing resources for traditional livelihoods. The conservation of mangroves thus becomes a collective responsibility, ensuring the resilience of both ecosystems and the communities intertwined with them.

Seeds of Transformation: Gazi Women CBO’s Pioneering Journey

In 2009, the coastal villages of Gazi and Makongeni in Kwale County, Kenya, bore witness to a unique seed of change that would transform their landscape. With critical support from UNDP and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Small Grants Programme (SGP), the community-based organisation (CBO) Gazi Women embarked on a journey that transcended mere conservation, intertwining biodiversity, climate action, and community empowerment — and laying the foundation for the Mikoko Pamoja project.

The GEF SGP grant award to the Gazi women’s group marked the inception of a holistic approach. The project aimed not only at conserving mangroves but also enhancing the productivity, stability, and integrity of the entire ecosystem, extending its embrace to the fisheries production of Kenya.

Gazi boardwalk surrounded by healthy mangroves — Credit: Mikoko Pamoja

Sustainable Dreams: All Oars in the Water

Recognizing the importance of youth, the Gazi Women collaborated with a dedicated youth group. Together, they undertook the task of planting trees in community farms, strategically alleviating the pressure on precious mangrove resources. Simultaneously, the Gazi Fishermen CBO embraced the practice of aquaculture, effectively countering the decline in traditional fisheries.

In this collaborative effort, the women, youth, and fishermen addressed conservation challenges comprehensively — the women focusing on conservation issues, the youth planting trees, and the fishermen venturing into fish farming. This collective approach aimed to alleviate pressure on in-shore fisheries and counter destructive land-based activities, ensuring a harmonious balance for the delicate coastal ecosystem.

Conscious Ripples: A Wave of Awareness and Capacity

As the project unfolded, conscious ripples of awareness and appreciation swept through Gazi and Makongeni. The community groups not only contributed to conservation but also witnessed enhanced organizational capacity, positioning them as torchbearers for future projects.

Through awareness-raising, the community now understands the importance of mangroves. — — Hussein Shame, High School Student from Gazi Village

Community workshops illustrate increased awareness and collaboration. Credit: Mikoko Pamoja

From Pioneer to Catalyst: Mikoko Pamoja’s Gambit

A few years after the UNDP-SGP-supported intervention, in 2012, Mikoko Pamoja emerged as a project that established itself officially in 2014 as the world’s first blue carbon initiative benefitting the community through the sale of mangrove carbon credits. It was more than a project; it was a symphony orchestrating triple wins — biodiversity conservation, climate change mitigation, and livelihood enhancement.

By reinvesting income from carbon credits into mangrove conservation efforts, enhancing access to clean drinking water, improving education facilities through the purchase of school textbooks, and promoting beekeeping and ecotourism, it established a comprehensive strategy. This approach provides long-term incentives for mangrove restoration and protection by fostering community engagement and participation.

The tourism sector has improved through the mangrove boardwalk. — Hussein Shame, high School Student from Gazi village

The Mikoko Pamoja project has given the community a chance to participate in project activities and providing clean water to our community. — Mwananhawa Bakarii, Community Women leader in Gazi village

The entire community benefits through Mikoko Pamoja through clean water and the 3,000,000 KES of income generated that paid for books and desks for schools. — Hamisi Mwalimu, Village Elder, Makongeni village

Gifts from the Mikoko Pamoja community to the Royals; Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden and Crown Prince Haakon of Norway in 2022. Credit: Mikoko Pamoja

A Harmony of Science and Livelihood Development

Having established a research station within Gazi village for over two decades, the Kenya Marine Fisheries and Research Institute (KEFRI) has played a pivotal role in advancing mangrove research in Gazi Bay. This longstanding commitment not only supported the development of the Mikoko Pamoja demonstrative carbon-offset project but also marked a significant stride towards utilizing mangroves as natural capital.

This innovative approach stands as a cornerstone in fostering harmonious and sustainable coexistence between nature and communities, infusing scientific expertise into community-led conservation efforts.

While the project is managed by the Mikoko Pamoja Community Organisation (MPCO) and the Mikoko Pamoja Steering Group (MPSG), KEFRI continues to provide invaluable technical support, from carbon accounting to capacity building, exemplifying the dynamic partnership steering the project’s triumph.

Bridging Communities, Government, and Science

Collaborating seamlessly with other government partners, the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) played a vital role in ensuring participatory forest management, while the Fisheries Department contributed its expertise to facilitate aquaculture development.

These partnerships, combined with KEFRI’s longstanding commitment and the collaborative efforts of the Gazi community, underscore the multifaceted approach of the Mikoko Pamoja project. As the Kenya Forest Service and Fisheries Department unite with the community and KEFRI, the project not only embraces science but harnesses government support, laying a robust foundation for successful mangrove conservation and community development.

Local Action, Global Impact

Mikoko Pamoja now serves as the guardian of 117 hectares of state-owned mangroves, nearly 16% of Gazi Bay’s mangrove ecosystem. Over 20 years (2013–2033), it commits to protecting 107 hectares of natural mangrove forests and conserving 10 hectares of red mangrove plantation from the early 1990s.

Through these efforts, Mikoko Pamoja annually sequesters 3,000 metric tons of CO2-equivalent, earning over US$12,000 on the Voluntary Carbon Market through Plan Vivo Certificates. This revenue fuels impactful community projects, benefiting 5,400 residents in education, health, water, sanitation, and environmental protection.

School children participate in a clean-up exercise and exhibit environmental stewardship. Credit: Mikoko Pamoja

Equator Initiative’s Embrace: Mikoko Pamoja Dons the Crown

In 2017, the pinnacle of global recognition arrived when Mikoko Pamoja was selected as a UNDP Equator Prize Winner. This prestigious tribute placed the project among the elite few, chosen from hundreds of community-based initiatives globally. And the global recognition continues, with awards won in different competitions in 2022 and 2023.

Mikoko Pamoja receives the Equator Prize. Credit: Equator Initiative Award

Legacy Bloom: Gazi and Makongeni’s Evergreen Horizon

As the sun dips below the coastal horizon every day, Mikoko Pamoja stands as a living testament to the power of community-led change. Gazi and Makongeni, once the backdrop of a local initiative, now stand as symbols of global environmental stewardship.




In #Kenya, UNDP works with the Government and communities towards inclusive and sustainable socio-economic and human development. https://www.ke.undp