Tuesday, September 8, 2009

East Africa: Region Taps Into Carbon Trading


Business Daily (Nairobi)

Mazera Ndurya and Githua Kihara 8 September 2009

Communities living on the coastline will soon be earning cash from the global carbon emissions trade thanks to a pilot project by the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute.

It targets those living near mangrove forests and will involve imparting skills on how to use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) that capture, store, analyse, manage, and present data linked to a particular location.

The trainees are drawn from Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique.

The Sh15 million project covers 700 hectares of forest at Gazi in Msambweni- South Coast that is estimated to have a population of one million mangrove trees and is expected to boost efforts to protect the trees providing over 70 per cent of wood required in the region.

Scientists at the institute say the trade will encourage communities to plant more mangrove trees to replenish the declining stock of aquatic life.

Global carbon offset is a new concept intended to tackle global warming. Though it dates back to 1989, it only took shape as a market after the Kyoto Protocol on global warming was signed and came into force in February 2005.

The Protocol requires industrialised countries to reduce total greenhouse gas emissions by an average 5.2 per cent compared to 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012.

A global market for carbon emission trade, which according to World Bank was estimated at $64 billion in 2007 has not benefited African countries, according to Dr James Kairo, the project co-ordinator and marine scientists at KMFRI.

The organisation has partnered with other agencies in spearheading the initiative.

During the opening of the training dubbed Mangrove Assessment, Restoration and Evaluation in East Africa (CAMARV) at Gazi, Dr Kairo said the project is supported by universities of Southampton, Bangor in the UK and Ecometrica, a UK company specialising in collection and analysis of ecosystems data.

Mangrove forest in Coast Province covers 54,000 hectares, which is three per cent of the total forest cover in the country.

Experts say this is sufficient to provide the residents a window to participate in carbon emission trade and replenish stocks of fish.

Africa is lagging other regions in carbon trading due to lack of technical capacity, said Dr Kairo, adding that the continent has been relying on international experts for support.

"It is for this reason that KMFRI with the support from a UK research organisation has launched a training programme that will give skills to selected community groups to engage in the global carbon emission trade," Kairo said.

Trainees will be equipped on using scientific methods to "assess the carbon content of the aquatic trees and value it for commercial purposes."

Threatened ecosystemThe one-year project that covers assessment of the trees is funded by the United Kingdom Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), he said.

KMFRI Centre director Dr Daniel Munga said the mangrove forest is among the most threatened ecosystems and in Kenya alone, "we have witnessed a 20 per cent decline in the forest cover over the last two decades."

The Kenya Forest Service, the Ministry of Fisheries, National Environment Management Authority and KMFRI are involved in conserving the forests, which provide the ecosystem for fish breeding and bee-keeping.