CESEA - Coastal Ecosystem Services in East Africa

Lead Research Organisation: Edinburgh Napier University
Department Name: School of Applied Science


The CESEA project is a collaboration between scientists and researchers in Tanzania, Kenya and the UK. By bringing together experts in ecololgy and development it will find new ways to help local people maintain their coastal resources whilst beating poverty. In particular, it will work with people dependent on resources from mangroves and seagrasses, two ecosystems that are vitally important for fish, coastal protection and the capture and storage of carbon but which are suffering high rates of destruction.

The project team will help with the local and national management of these ecosystems in three ways:

First we will work with the forestry departments in Kenya and Zanzibar to identify how they can better support community efforts at conservation and management. Laws already exist that allow community control of coastal resources; on paper these should mean local people benefiting from their resources whilst conserving them. But achieving this needs the help and support of the relevant government institutions and this often fails to happen on the ground. CESEA research will identify what the barriers are to this and how it can happen more effectively, and open up new channels of communication between the local communities and the government bodies.

Second we will research how to include seagrass meadows into payments for ecosystem services projects. Seagrasses are ecologically linked with mangrove forests - both act as nursery grounds for fish, as protection for coastlines, as sites for the filtering and removal of pollution and as sinks for carbon. We know how to measure the carbon in mangroves and how to use this carbon storage for the benefit of local people, through selling 'carbon credits' for well managed forests. This has never been achieved for seagrasses, despite their strong links with the mangrove ecosystems. For the first time we will develop the scientific methods necessary to measure the amounts and sources of carbon in these systems in such a way that community organisations could follow our methods. We will recommend ways in which the results of this science could be used in combination with mangrove systems to sell carbon to international markets.

Third we will explore why some communities in East Africa already have a good record of managing their mangroves and seagrasses whilst others have degraded ecosystems. We will let the successful local communities share their knowledge with other communities in the region and help produce guidelines for how this can be done. We will organise meetings between local community leaders and the government officers and executives with responsibility for helping community management of mangroves and seagrass resources. These will be a powerful way of ensuring that the voices of communities are heard and that national plans can be informed by their experiences.

Planned Impact

The CESEA project aims to be of direct benefit to people in coastal communities in East Africa, to governments and to national and international NGOs and organisations. In particular the project will benefit:

1. Coastal communities in Kenya and Zanzibar
2. Kenya Forest Service and Department of Forestry and Non-Renewable Resources Zanzibar
3. National Environmental Management Authority and Ministry of Fisheries, Kenya, and Department of Environment and Ministry of Livestock Development and Fisheries Zanzibar
4. NGOs and donor funded projects working with coastal communities in Kenya and Zanzibar
5. International NGOs and organizations, e.g. IUCN and UNEP

The impacts at the local community level will come from structured communication between communities and community leaders, between community leaders and national government organisations and from facilitating access by communities to options for payments for ecosystem services (PES). The communication will involve arranging a series of workshops at which communities with a range of approaches to managing their local mangrove and seagrass resources will learn from each other and exchange best practice; the project will draw from these meetings to produce material for local community guidance, disseminated through the East African Forum for Payments for Ecosystem Services (EAFPES). Additional workshops will bring together communities and representatives of the forest services to explore barriers to effective communication and community support. Finally the project will help to select those communities that do not at present benefit from payments for ecosystem services schemes but which have the natural resource base and governance structures that make them most likely to succeed with such schemes. It will muster the support of EAFPES and the relevant government departments in developing new schemes in these areas.

The forest services in Kenya and Zanzibar are mandated with supporting community based conservation and management initiatives but often struggle to do so. By working closely with them both this project will identify key barriers to effective implementation of current legislation and ways of overcoming these. Workshops will bring together researchers, forestry officers and executives and local community leaders to develop policy guideline documents aimed at audiences within the relevant institutions; hence the impact is designed to be highly contextualised and directly relevant to Kenya and Zanzibar, whilst still drawing on lessons from outside these countries. The relevant government ministries and departments will benefit by sharing this detailed research with senior management. The research findings will also directly inform relevant national plans, including REDD readiness and Mangrove Management plans; the team includes national experts who are part of the panels developing these plans.

By looking at the scientific, practical and regulatory potential for the inclusion of seagrass ecosystems into joint mangrove/seagrass PES schemes the project will be of benefit to numerous national and international NGOs interested in using PES to combine conservation with livelihood support. Project results will be listed on the Blue Carbon portal and the protocols and approaches developed or suggested will be made available for other projects to follow. Since this project will be the first to look at the feasibility of seagrass for PES its results will be of great interest to international efforts to conserve 'blue carbon' and will inform international policy on this (we have team members represented on the 'blue carbon' working group and dealing with wetlands for IPCC).
Description Key findings are: 1) seagrass meadows at our research site at Gazi Bay store up to 6 times the carbon of adjacent areas of bare sediment. 2) This carbon is vulnerable to loss after seagrass is damaged or removed 3) There is therefore the potential to include seagrass carbon into PES schemes, such as the one currently running for mangroves, and we are working towards this. 4) Kenya Forest Service, which is mandated to help local communities conserve and manage their mangrove forests, has struggled to do so. We used ethnographic research to investigate why. KFS is short of funds and expertise, and this doesnt help. However we discovered a range of practices that have symbolic or ritualistic purposes but are not linked to any forest conservation outcome, and are working with KFS to help improve their service. 5) Communities in Kenya and Tanzania which live close to and rely on mangrove forests can be highly influential in determining the fate and management of the forests. Local governance is linked with forest health, but is also influenced by external factors, such as proximity to large populations, beyond the control of local people. So local governance really matters for forest health, but cannot on its own be used to predict ecological quality.
Exploitation Route This work will help to complement the current mangrove carbon work and be of use in combined mangrove/seagrass carbon sequestration projects; we are working on launching a new carbon mangrove PES project based in the large southern mangrove forest of Vanga in mid 2018. The ethnographic work with KFS has been used to give policy advice to them and we intend to extend and deepen this relationship, involving KFS throughout the implementation of the new project and providing them with workshops on how to improve what they do with mangrove management. In the longer term, some of the Tanzanian communities may also develop their own PES schemes
Sectors Environment

Description The Kenyan government promoted part of the work at COP21 through IUCN. In 2017, Mikoko Pamoja, the community based mangrove carbon offset scheme that we established and that has been supported by a range of ESPA research, including the CESEA project, was awarded the UN Equator Prize for outstanding grassroots responses to the challenge of climate change. The UNEP has now funded a follow on study to the seagrass work to help us establish a community based seagrass conservation project. Our new mangrove based carbon project, Vanga Blue Forest, received its formal validation visit in February 2019 , was validated in July 2019 and formally launched on 1st January 2020. It has now issued its first set of carbon credits, based on mangrove conservation, and invested in footbridges, school buildings and the relief of period poverty, bringing benefits to over 8000 local people. As a further development, the team worked with the Kenyan government to incorporate mangrove and seagrass conservation into the Kenyan NDC document submitted in 2021
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Environment
Impact Types Societal,Economic

Description training and involvement of Kenya Forest Service in community management of mangroves
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact Kenya Forest Service is now an integral partner in the development and delivery of a new community managed forestry project in southern Kenya, which will affect around 8000 people and is due to be launched in August 2018
Description Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation
Amount $50,000 (USD)
Organisation Leonardo Dicaprio Charitable Foundation 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United States
Start 09/2017 
End 10/2020
Description Newton fund
Amount £98,000 (GBP)
Funding ID 275670159 
Organisation British Council 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2017 
End 03/2018
Description Community Carbon Partnerships 
Organisation World Wide Fund for Nature
Country Switzerland 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution this is a new partnership in which we will build on the expertise of WWF in community conservation and they will help us with fuel efficient stove technology. The idea is to help build the mangrove carbon work into a whole community approach to managing carbon
Collaborator Contribution WWF will bring media and communication expertise
Impact No outputs yet since this is a new project. But we expect to assist people in Gazi to adopt fuel efficient stoves and to help build capacity in WWF Kenya in media and communications
Start Year 2017
Description Representation at COP meeting in Bonn, November 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact we held a stall at Bonn, under the auspices of the Association for Coastal Ecosystem Services, the charity that was established to support our work. This promoted mangrove carbon offsetting and publicised the development of the new project at Vanga
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://cop23.unfccc.int/
Description visit by the American Ambassador to Kenya to our field site and to our project 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact The american ambassador visited our project and enjoyed a tour of the forest and the womens mangrove boardwalk. he subsequently tweeted about our work
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://twitter.com/BobGodec/status/836184108304850944