Mangroves can withstand soil and water conditions that would kill most plants, and yet these hardiest of tropical forests are vanishing from the Earth so quickly that every effort to protect them is of value – both locally and globally.
This is because mangroves have an outsized environmental and economic impact wherever they grow. They protect against coastal erosion, help with flood control, act as carbon sinks, and are unique ecosystems that harbor a wealth of fish, insect, bird, and reptile species.
They also have tremendous economic value. According to some estimates, the goods and services mangroves provide – from fishing to lumber – contribute from $33,000-$57,000 per hectare annually to the economies of the countries in which they are found. Countries are increasingly turning to mangroves as a nature-based defense against climate-related hazards, with wide community support for replanting and restoration activities.
Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, the Global Environment Facility’s CEO and Chairperson, welcomed the results of one such initiative on a visit to the coastal town of Bingerville, Cote d’Ivoire.
Bingerville, a town outside the country’s financial capital Abidjan, lies alongside the Ebrié Lagoon, a 130 km (80 mile) stretch of water separated from the ocean by a strip of coastline. For years, the town’s adjacent forests have been depleted by use of mangroves as fuel for the cooking of local staple dish attièké (cassava semolina) and for the processing of palm wine.
Mangrove destruction had depleted the natural resources of the Ebrié Lagoon, already heavily polluted by solid, liquid, and industrial waste from Abidjan, along with run-off from surrounding farms. Pollution and degradation have reduced fish stocks and affected the well-being of people living along the length of the lagoon.
However, conditions in Bingerville have begun improving following the launch of the GEF Small Grants Programme (SGP) project Restoration of biodiversity and development of the Coastal Wetlands of Bingerville, which has worked to restore and protect the vital vegetation that provides a buffer against the storms and rising seas associated with climate change.
Concerned about the depletion of the mangroves, Bingerville residents sought help from the UNDP-implemented SGP to restore 30 hectares of lost forests. The funding went toward community restoration activities, starting with the replanting of a single narrow row of mangroves, which have since grown and spread broadly.
This work has had widespread and noticeable effects on the area, including the return of animals such as monitor lizards and crocodiles. The community is now exploring possibilities to develop eco-tourism centered around the restored mangroves as a way to sustain these positive impacts and generate local revenue, said Alimata Koné Bakayoko, Cote d’Ivoire’s Operational Focal Point to the GEF.
During his visit, the GEF CEO toured the reforestation sites, along with the two hectares of acacia nurseries constructed during the project. He also saw and learned about related activities, which included the training of local people in silviculture and the making of briquettes for more efficient cooking and the replanting of four hectares of mangroves.
“I am so pleased to see how the community is rallying behind mangrove growth as a nature-based solution with wide, positive effects, for local people and for the environment,” Rodriguez said. “These efforts are an inspiration to others and are extremely useful as a guide for future action – here in Cote d’Ivoire and in other tropical areas.”