A comparison of two mangrove restoration projects in Ada, Ghana
Two similar areas, two similar sets of problems, two similar approaches to solve them. What made one mangrove restoration project succeed and the other not? (10 August 2007) MAP
10 August 2007
by Anuradha S. Rao
Two similar areas, two similar sets of problems, two similar approaches to solve them. What made one mangrove restoration project succeed and the other not?
Ada is a town on the western side of the Volta River estuary in Ghana, West Africa, on the Gulf of Guinea. The Department of Wildlife office responsible for the Ramsar site in this area initiated mangrove restoration projects in three villages in the area, two of which will be discussed here: Obane and Terkpekope. Both villages are situated slightly inland from the mouth of the Volta River, and were historically alongside tributaries that flowed into the Songor Lagoon.
In recent decades, people in these villages and others have noticed decreased water levels in the Volta, to the point where the tributaries ran dry. According to local Wildlife staff, reasons for this may have included the damming of the Volta River at Akosombo, reduced rainfall (due to climate change), increased water use for irrigation in upstream areas, and choking of waterways by reeds. Fortunately, the local people can use these reeds to weave mats. But women in Terkpekope now walk 2.5km to fetch water during the dry season, and 800 metres during the rainy season. Another effect of this loss of water has been the loss of mangrove forests.
Mangroves have also been depleted in Obane and Terkpekope because of wildfires, habitat alteration, ecological fragmentation and conversion of ecological sites into rice and sugar cane farms. Over-harvesting has contributed to depletion, but has not been the major factor.
When asked why mangroves are important to them, villagers in both communities stated that they provide them with fish and crabs. They also recognized that mangroves provide a home for other wildlife.
Seeing these potential benefits of mangrove habitat restoration, in addition to improved access to water, men and women from Obane and Terkpekope agreed to work on a restoration project in exchange for food, and basic equipment such as cutlasses and rubber boots. They cleared dense grasses by hand to open the waterways, and planted mangroves alongside their cleared water channels.
Obane's success is visible from a distance; two thick stands of mangroves are prominent on the otherwise altered landscape. The villagers cleared 8.5 km of a creek all the way from their village to the main river. Water is now flowing through the area, their mangroves are tall and dense, and fish and other wildlife have returned.
Unfortunately, Terkpekope's mangrove restoration project was not so successful. The manual labour was a real challenge; the grasses grew so quickly that by the time the villagers had cleared one area and moved on to a second, the first would start growing again. The project ran out of funds before the community could finish clearing the channel. What really did in their project, however, was a fire set by a neighbouring village to prepare land for farming. The dry weather, plus the runaway fire, did such damage to the plantation that very few trees remain. Community leader Doris Oger Bafloe has since spoken to the neighbouring villages, and they have stopped setting fires. For some time now, Terkpekope has been awaiting funding from the local District Assembly to dredge the creek and restore the water flow that both the people and the mangroves need, however at the time of writing, the District Assembly had yet to respond to their request.
In the same environmental context and the same working conditions, therefore, one group met with more success than the other. Key factors included the following: adequate funds from the outset to complete the project once started; awareness and cooperation from neighbouring communities; recognition of the limitations of manual labour; and cooperation of the local government.
Submitted by: Anuradha S. Rao, M.Sc.
Gordon Foundation Global Youth Fellow
St. John's, Canada