Kenya: Community Mangrove Rehabilitation, Conservation and Sustainable Management in Tsunza Bay

Tsunza mangroves; Credit: Sand County Foundation


Through its grassroots community work in Tsunza Bay, Kenya, the Tsunza Conservation and Development Programme (TCDP) is working to restore degraded mangroves and promote sustainable management and utilization of these resources as a means of ensuring future livelihood activities. The initiative is comprised of three distinct components: the rehabilitation of degraded mangrove forest areas, the raising of villagers’ awareness through training and information dissemination, and community-based, long-term management achieved through various capacity building efforts.

Quick Facts

Project Location:
Tsunza Bay, Kenya, -0.023559, 37.90619300000003

Geographic Region:

Country or Territory:


Estuaries, Marshes & Mangroves

Area being restored:
100 hectares

Project Lead:
Tsunza Conservation and Development Programme

Organization Type:
Community Group


Project Stage:
Planning / Design

Start Date:

End Date:

Primary Causes of Degradation

Mining & Resource Extraction

Degradation Description

Along the coast, commercial logging of mangroves for use as fuel wood in industrial concerns–e.g. brick factories and industrial and urban development–have been responsible for widespread degradation and loss of mangrove forests.

Project Goals

The initiative’s long-term goal is to establish an integrated system of sustainable economic development and coastal resource management. In order to move toward that goal, the first priority has been the rehabilitation of degraded mangrove sites. Next, TCDP has sought to raise community awareness of environmental issues and to educate villagers about the centrality of healthy mangroves to socio-economic vitality. Lastly, the project aims to assure local involvement in the development and implementation of a sustainable management plan.


The project does not have a monitoring plan.


Informal cooperation at the field level between the Forest Department, Kenya Marine Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI), villagers, schools and other community organizations has been particularly fruitful and should be sustained after the current project span. The support by the local government of the villagers’ efforts (with help from the project) to patrol the mangrove forests for illegal mangrove cutters has been one such example. In several meetings, workshops and seminars on mangrove management in Tsunza, representatives from the government, private sector, academic institutions, media and grassroots organizations worked together to formulate a joint strategic Action Plan for better mangrove management. This increased cooperation, communication and sharing and will continue to pay off well into the future.

Description of Project Activities:
Three villages in Tsunza Bay were selected as the target communities for the mangrove resource management and rehabilitation: Tsunza, Dzivani and Lutsanganiimteza. Participation by village representatives was achieved through involvement in workshops, meetings, planning and implementation of project activities.

Ecological Outcomes Achieved

Eliminate existing threats to the ecosystem:
Substantial strides were made in the rehabilitation of the mangrove forest, as an area of approximately 100 hectares of severely degraded mangroves was replanted with approximately 2 million mangrove seedlings. The seedlings are showing good survival rates to date, and the restored area has been made available for the local community (after discussions with and approval by local government and the Forest Department). Not only that, marine resources and biodiversity have recovered somewhat, and some species of birds and other marine life that had previously disappeared have been sighted again. Since the inception of the TCDP, approximately 3,000 hectares of mangrove forest have been placed under community management and entrusted to the stewardship of local villagers.

Factors limiting recovery of the ecosystem:
The survival of the replanted mangrove trees in plots at the community forest site of Mwangoa was hampered significantly in the early days by drought, grazing goats and sheep and very high soil salinity levels. The initial survival rates of the experimental sites were below 30%, which dampened the enthusiasm of some members of the community. This problem was addressed by proper fencing of the sites, hydrological restoration of some sites through the digging of tidal channels and manual adjustments to surface topography. The hydrology of most of these sites is now characterized by proper flooding at high tide and proper drainage during low tides and periods of substantial rainfall. This has improved soil conditions and consequently the survival and growth rates of the replanted mangroves. Besides physical limitations, forest recovery has also been hampered somewhat by a lack of adequate manpower and equipment. Laws and regulations pertaining to mangrove forest conservation and marine resource exploitation have not yet been aggressively enforced due to this shortage of personnel.

Socio-Economic & Community Outcomes Achieved

Economic vitality and local livelihoods:
Based on current local prices one could calculate that within a few years the 200 hectares of replanted mangroves in Tsunza will represent a potential economic benefit of over 50 million shillings. Thus, villagers have already benefited from a substantial increase in their economic base. One exciting consequence of the project's support for alternative livelihood activities--e.g. beekeeping, livestock, broom making, and a cultural dance troupe--seems to have been a resultant increase in local interest. Villagers have been convinced to participate in the project, and the atmosphere of poverty and despair is slowly changing into one of hope and a willingness to struggle for a way out of social and economic marginalization. Yet it is clear that only a certain proportion of the villagers (possibly less than 20%) actively participate in the project and as such, the most direct benefits must have largely gone to them. Only in the longer term will the indirect benefits such as the mangrove related improvements in fish catch and the opportunity to harvest mangrove poles from the community forest be accessible to other members of the community.

Key Lessons Learned

The lack of clear, measurable indicators of progress has contributed to some degree of uncertainty, skepticism and even opposition among the target communities, and other stakeholders. The project has taken a flexible and open approach, putting considerable effort in the creation of a strong sense of local ownership of the process and allowing them to play a major role in the planning and decision making of the project. This has demonstrated clearly to the community that their knowledge, concerns and ideas are taken seriously, strengthening their trust in the participatory process. At the same time, however, this has led to diffusion of the project objectives with a lack of clarity on priorities and a gradual shift in preference of interest towards activities of immediate benefits rather than to broader, long-term solutions to the problems.

Besides fostering uncertainty, this emphasis on the local community has resulted in a lack of understanding, involvement and commitment from other stakeholders such as government institutions and mangrove cutters and licensees. This imbalance between bottom-up and top-down focus is characteristic of the general lack of mutual trust between local community-based organizations and government officials in Kenya.

Long-Term Management

A detailed land use plan for the community mangrove forest area at Tsunza has been developed through an intensive participatory consultation process involving a mapping exercise of the village and its environment by the community. Similar comparable environmental land use maps and management plans were prepared with the target communities during the Resource Inventory survey conducted during this period. The implementation of such community based management and development plans proves to be a learning process that requires patience and flexibility. Placing the local community in a central position in decision making and planning can have its own drawbacks, but this may prove the most sustainable strategy for the long term, as it builds strong local commitment.

Sources and Amounts of Funding

Swedish Society for Nature Conservation;
East African Wild Life Society;
Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute

Other Resources

Ted Majaliwa Kombo
Tsunza Conservation and Development Programme

Rydlund, Maria
Swedish Society for Nature Conservation

Primary Contact

Organizational Contact