Rufiji Delta Communities Trained on Alternative Mangrove Restoration Approaches

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Mangrove restoration is not just planting one or two mangrove species in straight lines – it’s much more complex than that! To demystify this, Wetlands International together with Mangrove Action Project (MAP) undertook a Community-Based Ecological Mangrove Restoration (CBEMR) training for 28 participants in Kibiti District, Rufiji Delta, Tanzania. Oft, restoration projects move straight into establishing mangrove nurseries and planting before understanding the issues related to the project site. Sadly, such projects are bound to fail.

CBEMR supports a holistic, science-based approach that encourages practitioners to mitigate mangrove stressors and facilitate natural mangrove regeneration. This is achieved by working with the local communities to understand all social and technical challenges affecting the restoration site including site hydrology, soil elevation relative to sea level, pressures on the mangroves and why a site is not naturally regenerating.

CBEMR avoids the costs and necessity of building a nursery and planting as natural regeneration encourages all the species in the locality to find their appropriate sites. The approach is an adaptable process that allows mangrove workers to take on all sorts of different challenges such as very high salinity in the Saloum Delta, Senegal or grazing pressure in Rakhine State, Myanmar.

The mangrove ecosystem in the Rufiji Delta provides a bountiful living space for many iconic species ranging from fish, migratory water birds, sea turtles nesting on beaches secured by mangrove roots, crabs and shrimp that thrive in mangrove shallows, and other wildlife. However, despite the huge value of mangroves in this Delta, they are heavily exploited and degraded.

To address these challenges, the CBEMR training was organised in two phases: a five-day, more theoretical workshop followed by three days of more practical training as a follow-up to the classroom workshop. Jim Enright, Dominic Wodehouse and Jaruwan ‘Ning’ Enright from MAP were the trainers. The participants were carefully selected by Wetlands International Eastern Africa from the mangrove forest community leaders living in the Delta, the Tanzania Forest Service, local NGOs and community-based organisations in addition to representatives from Kenya, Mozambique and Madagascar. This training was timely as this year’s World Wetlands Day theme ‘Wetlands and Climate Change’ highlighted the critical role mangroves play as carbon sinks and the protection they provide to communities from floods, storms and adverse climatic conditions.

Speaking during the training, the District Commissioner, Kibiti Region, Mr. Gulamhussein Kifu, urged participants to work together to sustainably conserve mangroves. He called on the trainers to share alternative livelihood options with communities living in and depending on this vital resource that would encourage wise use of mangroves and raise awareness on their value.

The training focused on two elements. First, the trainers explained the features of mangrove biology and ecology that were relevant to the CBEMR approach in mangrove rehabilitation. This helped increase the participants’ ability to understand the complexities of potential sites – social as well as biophysical – and how they can rehabilitate them using the CBEMR method. This included mitigating mangrove stressors and understanding why mangroves were not regenerating, before facilitating natural regeneration and monitoring the work for three to five years. Beyond the problem of clearance for rice farming in the delta, the mangroves suffer from over-harvesting for poles and timber and smothering by climbers stressing the big trees and killing off juvenile plants and natural regeneration.

Second, the group focused specifically on the issue of encroachment by rice farmers in the western end of the Delta. Rice farming on this area of ​​the Delta was possible because the water salinity is very low and which also encourages rapid mangrove growth. The combined group explored the conditions and resources the Government would need to stop further encroachment, provide incentives to the farmers to restore the land they had cleared off mangroves, and eventually encourage the community to move inland to farm in more appropriate areas. Discussions included the need to offer alternative livelihood options that would reduce the mangrove clearance. To encourage discussion of this option, MAP presented case studies from Thailand documenting community honey production in mangrove-based villages.

Pictorial from the CBEMR training 

Mangrove Capital Africa is a 10-year programme with the vision: Mangroves and their biodiversity are healthy, improving the livelihoods of millions of people and protecting them against the dangers of climate change. So far, the Programme has conducted several baseline studies in Rufiji in order to understand the status of the Delta and the different issues related to mangrove restoration. “Through this training, we will raise awareness on when to plant and when not to plant, while at the same time highlighting the issues affecting Rufiji mangroves and how they can be conserved more effectively,” said Mr. Ismail Saidi, Project Manager.

The Program is led by Wetlands International and funded by DOB ecology

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