At the moment, mangroves compose less than 0.4 percent of the world’s forests, but they are disappearing faster than ordinary forests as a whole.
The State of the World’s Mangroves 2022 report estimates 33 million hectares of mangroves worldwide, but half of it was wiped out. In Kenya, over 70 percent cover loss since 1985 has been recorded in peri-urban areas of Mombasa due to over-harvesting.
The world marked the International Day for Conservation of Mangrove Ecosystem on 26th July with rising fear among environmentalists. The Kenya National Mangrove Ecosystem Management Plan (2017 – 2027) highlights three mother causes of mangrove exploitation, namely: poverty and economic development, ignorance and weak governance.
These challenges are contributing massively to the present vast deforestation and degradation of mangrove forests.
The degradation of mangroves is costing coastlines erosion and storm surges. Continued deforestation of mangrove areas disturbs habitats, food and damages biodiversity, a key effect of this being the decline in fishery yields.
For coastal communities, fishing is a main source of income and a diminishing fish population means little to no income for many households.
In Kenya mangrove is over-harvested primarily for wood fuel. Efforts are underway to recover lost forests. For instance, the Lamu County Integrated Development Plan (CIDP) 2023-2027, has included the energy-efficient cookstoves initiative in Lamu, as a flagship programme to boost energy efficiency.
Unesco Director-General Audrey Azoulay notes that mangroves are “a haven of life that must be protected.”