Mangrove forests provide a wide array of valuable ecosystem services and play a critical role in climate change mitigation and adaptation. They sequester vast amounts of carbon from the atmosphere, slow coastal erosion, and form a natural barrier that protects coastal communities from extreme weather. Mangrove ecosystems are a refuge for juvenile fish, a nesting habitat for migratory birds, and a breeding ground for sea turtles. They also provide sustainable economic opportunities for local communities who fish and develop ecotourism initiatives. The most extensive remaining mangrove forest in Central America is located in El Salvador’s Bay of Jiquilisco. Unfortunately, El Salvador has lost sixty percent of its mangrove forest coverage since 1950, and continues to lose mangroves at a rate of 681 hectares (1683 acres) each year. This loss threatens the livelihoods and safety of the communities and wildlife that depend on the health of this ecosystem for their survival.
Taking place in Bak-Klong Beach in Koh Kong province, the Mangrove Youth Camp was a unique three-day event that brought so much awareness on the benefits of the mangrove ecosystem and the challenges the Areng and Prey Lang communities are presently facing. “Kang Khmer” or Khmer Bike, a youth-led organisation, initiated the camp that also highlighted arts and culture, Lakhorn Sbek Toch (storytelling through shadow puppetry) and Long-Vek era costume-wearing. Participants of the camp were supposed to visit Koh Sralao village in Koh Kapi commune. However, some legal documents were not fulfilled and the organisers were not permitted to bring the campers inside the village. Despite the sudden changes, the Mangrove Camp remained as fun and education as expected. San Mala, organiser of the Mangrove Youth Camp, said the Mangrove Festival the group held last year earned about 6,000 USD for the Koh Sralao villagers. The locals also welcomed the young participants in their homes and shared their stories. According to Mot Kimry, the camp is centered on raising awareness on how the mangrove ecosystem affects the community and foster tourism in Koh Kong province. Many people who love the beach often choose to go to Kampot province and Sihanoukville, forgetting that Koh Kong offers as much beauty and splendor. “People love visiting beach on their holiday. But they don’t really know about mangroves. That’s the reason why we are holding the Mangrove Festival and the Mangrove Youth Camp.”
An assessment has shown that the British Virgin Islands’ mangrove population was nearly wiped out by last September’s hurricanes. A week-long assessment was done by Dr Gregg Moore, who is a coastal restoration ecologist. His assessment was to find out the current status of local mangroves and present a report to government and the public. The findings will also assist in identifying restoration and conservation priorities. This recently-concluded assessment done on the mangroves in Jost Van Dyke, Tortola, Frenchman’s Cay, Beef Island, Great Camanoe, Virgin Gorda and the Prickly Pear Islands, was sponsored by regional wildlife organisation, BirdsCaribbean. “The assessment confirms what BVI residents and visitors to the territory could probably already guess: At least 90 percent of all the mature red mangrove trees that form the coastal fringing system have been defoliated and are dead, with very few exceptions,” said a release from the Jost Van Dykes Preservation Society. A serious blow to the ecological system According to the findings, the loss is a serious one to the territory’s ecological system. “The significance of this finding is that not only does it represent a serious ecological blow to the system, but the storm also took with it the flowers and fruits that we’d expect would be the next generation.”
The Pitas development is a government initiative through state subsidiary company Inno Fisheries Sdn in collaboration with Sunlight Seafood (Sabah) Sdn Bhd, is reported to entail a RM1.23 bn (c US $320m) investment and the creation of about 1,500 shrimp ponds. Around 20% of the total funding is from state sources. Yayasan Sabah’s Inno-Fisheries is a government agency whose website states its mission as being “to uplift the quality of life of Malaysians in Sabah”. Sunlight Seafood is one of the leading processors and exporters of frozen seafood products in Malaysia. Local people, however, do not see the benefits. Noridah Samad, a local youth and a member of the G6 collective says: “Seeing our land being destroyed in the name of profit making, impedes us from sustaining our traditional livelihoods and culture. With the destruction of the 2300 ac, many youths will never learn the ways of our grandfathers and traditional knowledge will be lost.” Another local farmer and fisherman, also a member of the G6 collective, says that the shrimp farm developments over 2300 acres have significantly depleted resources and affected the livelihood of subsistence farmers and fishermen in the area. Speaking at a press conference organised by Sabah Environmental Protection Association (SEPA) in 2015, he said: “We now have remaining about 1,000 acres of mangrove land which has a sensitive biosystem and hold our livelihood as well as traditional practises like traditional medicine, building materials and sacred sites. “We are concerned that any further expansion of the farm into this land will permanently and completely destroy our source of income and livelihood on the very ground that we have lived on for eight generations now.”
This March, Mangrove Action Project (MAP) attended the 2nd People and Forests Fair at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre. There were 19 non-governmental organizations, community groups and government organizations participating in this event organized by The Center For People and Forests, RECOFTC. This was a large event, with a diverse array of over 500 people, comprised of local villagers and tourists, as well as Bangkok residents and government officials. MAP representatives included nine people from four villages that MAP works with in the field, including Bang Kang Khao village, Trang province, Thung Yor and Nai Nang village, Krabi province and Tha Sanook village, Phang Nga province. This event was organized to provide a learning exchange between different groups, and to link a variety of communities from upstream to the sea through the Forest Landscape Restoration (FLR) network. The nine villagers expressed their excitement and hoped to bring their experiences and knowledge from this event back home to apply to their community.
The award-winning Marvellous Mangroves (MM) curriculum educates children on the importance of mangroves and their ecological functions, teaching them about modern challenges and mechanisms for sustainability. MM training is an in-depth, hands-on, sciencebased conservation education program, which has not only been given to primary and secondary school children but also teachers themselves. The curriculum is already used in 15 countries by over 250,000 students and 2,500 teachers. Integrated with local and national curricula it encourages and facilitates students to spend time in mangrove forests, including participation in field studies, research and conservation. The empowering process for both students and teachers helps to create greener and healthier learning environment inside and outside of school.
MAP’s Education Director, Martin Keeley, has donated copies of his book Marvellous Mangroves Myths & Legends to every Year 5 teacher in the Cayman Islands. Presenting the books to Catherine Childs, National Trust Education Officer, Mr. Keeley explained that the Marvellous Mangroves education program has been part of the school curriculum since it was first introduced to Cayman in 2001. “As we enter the eighteenth year of mangrove education in Cayman I felt that it would be great to add yet another dimension to this popular hands-on science education program,” he said. Ms. Childs is responsible for delivering the program in Cayman’s schools every year to all Year 5 students. The National Trust of the Cayman Islands considers it one of its most valuable learning tools, she says, and is able to continue delivering the program annually thanks to the support of the Caribbean Utilities Corporation (CUC), which has sponsored the program since its initiation.
During the past two decades there has been a steady growth in mangrove ecotourism as more and more people people discover the hidden beauties of the world’s mangrove forests. As selected parts of the Marvellous Mangroves curriculum have been used to supplement the knowledge of the guides, the concerted focus of the October mangrove tourism workshops held this year in Suriname have added a new dimension to the tour guide training process. MAP Education Director Martin Keeley joined forces with the United Tour Guides Association of Suriname (UTGS) and the Foundation for Development of Radio and TV in Suriname (SORTS) to hold two workshops. The first 3-day workshop was held in Coronie, home of the amazing Mangrove Education Centre, and the second in New Amsterdam, Commewijne, on the opposite side of the Suriname River to Paramaribo. In 2016 UTGS directors led by Errol Gezius and Yves Tjon, together with Sherida Mormon of the NGO Advice For Innovation & Business Creation (ABIC) took part in a teacher/student MM workshop in Coronie as well as a one-day introductory tour guide mangrove workshop led by Martin Keeley. This began the drive towards a second series of workshops in July, 2017, which are part of the training of young eco-tour guides in the Coronie region of Suriname.
Sometimes, progress means helping nature do what it does best. This seems to be the case for a once-barren 200-acre piece of land surrounded by lush mangrove forests in El Salvador. The most extensive remaining mangrove forest in Central America is located in the Bay of Jiquilisco in the Lower Lempa region of El Salvador. At 632 square kilometers, the Bay of Jiquilisco is El Salvador’s largest wetlands complex and protected area, designated as both a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance and a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.sh, a nesting habitat for birds, and a breeding ground for sea turtles. Unfortunately, El Salvador has lost 60% of its mangrove coverage since 1950 and continues to lose mangroves at a rate of 681 hectares (just under 7 square kilometers) each year (MARN 2014). Climate change, deforestation, pollution, large-scale agricultural development, and over-exploitation of natural resources continue to threaten this critical resource. This loss threatens the livelihoods and safety of the communities and wildlife that depend on the health of this ecosystem for their survival.
Thung Yor is a small village located in Krabi Province, southern of Thailand. Some of the village area is mangrove forest which is connected to the Andaman Sea by tidal streams. Most of the villager’s main occupation is in agriculture with a supplementary livelihood from coastal small-scale fisheries. So, due to their dependence on the fishing the villagers have placed a priority on the conservation and restoration of mangroves. The community joined MAP to undertake a CBEMR project with the objective to restore 2 hectares of abandoned shrimp ponds back to mangroves. The site consists of 3 ponds as seen in the Google Earth image above with little or no tidal exchange, especially pond #2 and #3 which was were waterlogged with few mangrove seeds entering the ponds and the condition was not suitable for mangrove growth. Pond #1 remained very wet as the pond drained through the sluice gate and by the time the pond was drained the tidal starting to come back up due the semidurnal tides. ( 2 high & 2 low tides in 24 hr) Under CBEMR the priority is to restore normal tidal flushing. The community wanted to rehabilitate the mangroves but the traditional planting method would not work in this situation due to the disturbed hydrology. MAP introduced the concept of Community-based Ecological Mangrove Restoration (CBEMR) which was a completely new approach for the community but they trusted MAP and are determined to learn.