Kirepwe

June 2017

Conservation benefit: Protection of a 865-acre mangrove forest for 20 years

Community benefit: Water cistern construction and repair, and mangrove replanting

Kirepwe is a small island within the expansive Mida Creek estuarine system on the Kenyan coastline. The greater Mida Creek-Arabuko Sokoke Forest ecosystem is considered the second most important International Bird Area in Africa. Over 230 bird species are found in the area. Kirepwe Island itself is fringed by mangrove forests, representing eight species.

The island is home to a unique community called the Waata or Sanya. They are vulnerable and marginalized, with unique cultural practices that are facing extinction. The Waata were hunter-gatherers who lived in the expansive Arabuko Sokoke forest, but were chased out when it became a national park. Many sought refuge on Kirepwe Island, where they live with migrant Giriama communities from the mainland; the island’s total population is 800. Kirepwe’s Waata people are well-known beekeepers, with a rich cultural history of sustainable use of forest resources. However, due to extended drought, most of the Waata now depend on famine relief from the government and other donors.

Forests on Kirepwe are threatened by increasing population as well as climate change and drought. The communities have repeatedly called for urgent action to stop deforestation, as well as to address the ongoing drought’s effect on water supplies.

The community has pledged to conduct awareness programs to inform island residents of the need to conserve the mangrove ecosystem. The Gede Community Forest Association will work together with the Kenya Forest Department to map, monitor, and patrol the mangrove forests, and the Waata community pledges to protect the island’s 865 acres (350 hectares) of mangroves for at least 20 years. In return, Seacology will fund a new water cistern and repair of a dilapidated existing one, and support mangrove replanting.

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