“What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another:” -Mahatma Ghandi
This jewel of Ghandean wisdom is the inspiring principle of the Brain Youth Group, an ecosystem restoration and awareness initiative in Kenya and the brain child of Mbaarak Abdalla.
The mangrove restoration work they do is a showcase example of what may be the cutting edge in the battle against climate catastrophe: Community led restoration initiatives that include livelihood initiatives for local people.
Mbaarak Abdalla is a young man from the outskirts of Mombasa, Kenya, who has overcome many challenges to embark on a career that has lead him into landscape management, small business and even international organizing. “It’s just talent!”, he laughingly comments when I ask him how he became a community leader despite a lack of access to higher education and other opportunities many take for granted.
Tudor Creek is one of two main water bodies separating Mombasa Island and city from the mainland. The fertile inlet was until recent times the site of around 1,700 hectares of mangrove forest and an important site for fish reproduction and sensitive species. In addition to the local biodiversity, traditional livelihoods and culture have revolved around this ecosystem, and both have been severely impacted by the loss of the forest, of which less than 200 hectares remain.
Mbaarak has faced the impoverishment that inevitably accompanies ecosystem destruction; From loss of income sources, malnutrition, social fragmentation and even the HIV epidemic, he has witnessed what happens to people when the forest is destroyed, and understood that people who inhabit a rich forest are never truly poor.
The Brain Youth Group began organizing in 2011 with the specific goal of bringing back the mangroves at Tudor Creek. A mangrove nursery was built along with fish ponds and beehives to provide revenue streams for local people and incentivize further reforestation efforts. The group has now planted over 100,000 mangrove trees with a reported 84% survival rate.
Mbaarak and the BYG have a long road ahead if they are to meet the goal of fully restoring the mangroves at Tudor Creek, but as the mangrove trees mature along with the wealth of the forest many more communities, organizations and even governments may take notice. Hopefully the next 100,000 trees at Tudor Creek will be planted in a fraction of the time.
Restoration is the future of environmentalism, and the leading edge in the fight for a livable planet. The BRG is one link in a worldwide network of ecosystem restoration initiatives that are becoming increasingly visible, interconnected and recognized. As the value of healthy ecosystems and the benefits of nature to humans become more explicitly understood and accounted for, pioneers like Mbaarak will be hailed and recognized as the heroes they are.
To support the BYG get in touch with Mbaarak at firstname.lastname@example.org