The return of ecosystem goods and services in replanted mangrove forests: perspectives from local communities in Kenya
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P. Ronnback, B. Crona, and L. Ingwall


Mangroves are severely threatened ecosystems, with loss rates exceeding those of rainforests and coral reefs, stressing the need for large-scale rehabilitation programmes. Not only are ecological evaluations of such planting efforts scarce, but studies of local stakeholders’ perceptions and valuation of planted areas are also virtually non-existent. This paper assesses how resource users value natural versus planted mangroves and how they perceive plantation initiatives. Semi-structured interviews with 48 resource users from two Kenyan villages show marked mangrove dependence. Respondents identified 24 ecosystem goods, and ranked a variety of food items, traditional medicine, fuel and construction materials as very important resources. Natural mangroves (11.1±2.5) were rated more highly than plantations (4.8±2.7) in terms of the number and quality of products, except for mangrove poles. Nine ecosystem services were acknowledged, with significant differences between natural (5.2±1.1) and planted (4.1±1.6) mangroves. Most respondents (71%) were positive towards the plantations, and negative attitudes were entirely based on the perception of limited information given to the community prior to planting. Multivariate analyses show distinct patterns among user groups (based on gender, occupation and locality) with respect to recognized goods and services, knowledge of mangrove species and plantations, and attitudes towards threats, community management and existing plantations. Homogeneity of responses within defined user groups accounts for these patterns. Perspectives of local users were analysed in relation to information from interviews with six managers and researchers responsible for existing plantations, as well as scientific studies on the return of ecosystem functions in planted mangroves of the area. Findings are discussed in the context of ecological knowledge, learning within social groups, village setting and history, and primary economic activity. Communication of plantation goals may be fundamental to project success and sustainability, and community participation should take into account the heterogeneous nature of stakeholder groups, in terms

Main Results and Conclusions:
  • Mangroves in Kenya are threatened: “Kenya has lost about 20% of its mangrove forests, mainly due to the conversion into ponds for salt extraction (Salt Production) (Abuodha & Kairo 2001). The remaining forests are in many locations also degraded by unsustainable extraction of fuelwood and timber”(313). (Deforestation).
  • The study focused on two rural coastal communities: Gazi and Makongeni, both located approximately 50 km south of Mombasa, Kenya (314).
  • Both natural mangrove ecosystems as well as five plantation mangrove ecosystems were studied in each community. 
  • Questionnaires were used to determine community awareness of the ecosystem goods and services provided by mangroves, as well as the valuation of natural vs. plantation mangrove ecosystems. The following data was collected: 
    • “Twenty-four different types of ecosystem goods and nine services were acknowledged, including the identification of three goods and three services not specified in the questionnaire. Many respondents also showed a fairly detailed understanding of the mangrove ecosystem functions supporting these services, for example, the role of mangroves in supporting migratory fish species”(321).
    • “The majority of respondents (81%) thought natural mangroves were more valuable than the plantations (Table 3), however, more than one-third of Makongeni respondents argued that the plantations were more valuable. The main reason given was that the plantations would produce more poles of good quality, outweighing the fact that natural mangroves generate more products”(319).
    • “Significantly fewer services (p<0.001) were also recognized from the plantations (4.1±1.6) than from natural mangroves (5.2±1.1) (n=48)”(320).
    • “Natural mangroves were perceived as significantly more valuable than the plantations in terms of the number (p <0.001) and quality of ecosystem goods provided. On average, natural mangroves supported 11 goods compared to less than five from the plantations. Only 15–40% of interviewed users thought that the plantations could support food, fuel and medicinal resources (Table 2)”(322).
  • Attitudes toward plantations were favorable:
    • “Most people interviewed (71%) had a positive attitude towards the plantations (Table 3), based on the possibility of harvesting more products from them in the future”(320).
    • “In summary, men were generally more positive to community management than women (Table 3). Makongeni men were especially positive and wanted to plant mangroves in the future. They suggested establishing a committee and setting up their own regulations, although some called for government support concerning guards to avoid kinship problems. Only one-third of respondents from Gazi, mainly men, were positive to community management. The negative views were primarily based on concerns regarding the inability of the community to control corruption and disrespect of set regulations, which could lead to conflicts in the village”(320).
  • Communication between local residents and individuals interested in creating mangrove plantations is crucial if mangrove rehabilitation is to be successful: “Resource users from Makongeni were most positive in terms of the goods and services provided by the plantations and saw limited difference between the value of natural and planted mangroves, when compared to Gazi villagers. Nonetheless, at the same time, negative attitudes towards the plantations were particularly pronounced among Makongeni women and especially men; these attitudes were entirely based on their perception that very limited or no information was given to them before the plantations were started”(323).
Works Cited:

Abuodha, P.A.W. & Kairo, J.G. (2001) Human-induced stresses on mangrove swamps along the Kenyan coast. Hydrobiologia 458: 255–265.