Nairobi, Sept 26 – American actor Leonardo DiCaprio is supporting the expansion of a university conservation project in Kenya.
The project, by Napier University in Edinburgh, will receive $50,000 in the latest a round of grants from the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation which he announced at a conference at Yale University in Connecticut, United States, according to a Press Association dispatch carried by the Evening Express newspaper in Scotland.
Mikoko Pamoja – ‘Mangroves Together’ in Swahili – involves Edinburgh-based scientists working with Kenyan villagers and researchers to protect threatened mangrove forests and fund community development.
The project in Gazi Bay, 50km south of Mombasa, won the 2017 Equator Prize by the United Nations Development Programme.
The funding from Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation will be used to try and repeat the project’s success in the Vanga Blue Forest area of Kenya.
DiCaprio’s foundation was established in 1998 with help of environmental experts and philanthropists and has gradually built an international grant-making operation.
Mangroves protect coastal communities from storms and tsunamis and are efficient natural carbon sinks, locking and storing CO2 at up to five times the rate of tropical rainforests. They also form an important habitat for fish and wildlife.
However environmental experts say they are being destroyed at an alarming rate, threatening the livelihoods of local farmers and fishermen and triggering the release of greenhouse gases.
The Mikoko Pamoja project involved Edinburgh Napier staff and students working with the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute in Gazi Bay to explore the ecological value of mangroves in helping the ecosystem recover.
The model will now be used in community projects to Vanga on Kenya’s south coast, with the grant-making body covering start-up costs.
Professor Mark Huxham, who is leading the university’s work in the area, said: “Protecting mangroves helps the people who rely on them, the wildlife that lives in them and the climate upon which we all depend.”