Mangroves are continuously under threat from overharvesting, degradation and land reclamation. Yet we continue to cut them down unaware at times of the role these trees are playing within the coastal ecosystem. Fiji and other Pacific Islands are highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change and because we cannot prevent it we have to find means to adapt to climate change.
Conservation of mangroves and associated coastal ecosystems has been identified as a key natural adaptation strategy and mitigation measure to the effects of climate change.
Under the Pacific Mangrove Initiative, the Mangrove EcoSystems for Climate change Adaptation and Livelihoods (MESCAL) project was developed to address key challenges to mangrove management and conservation.
Project Manager Tim Nolan said protecting these vital ecosystems also safeguarded the livelihoods of coastal Pacific Island communities. He said mangrove ecosystems, renowned for providing goods and services which are highly valued by the peoples of the Pacific, are under continued threat from overharvesting, degradation and land reclamation. Weak governance, disconnect between formal and traditional management systems, limited baseline information, weakening traditional management, lack of awareness and limited capacity are some of the key challenges of mangrove management faced in the Pacific.
MESCAL involves activities across five Pacific Island Countries which includes Fiji, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu.
Last week Ministry of Environment director Jope Davetanivalu and Solomon Islands Environment, Conservation and Meteorology permanent secretary Rence Sore were the first to sign their agreements for the project at the Novotel Hotel in Suva, Fiji.
Mr Sore said overharvesting of mangroves was also a problem for the Solomons as they were cut for firewood, building materials and expansion of coastal villages.
"When mangroves are gone there will be no fish and this will affect people's livelihood and biodiversity will be affected. Climate change which contributes to sea level rise is also claiming mangrove areas resulting in dead mangroves," he said.
"Climate change is a human induced problem because it is due to human activities. Our vision is to see mangroves planted in the next five years to regain the loss in biodiversity and also for more fish to come back and people can have a decent meal in the long term especially for their livelihood."
Furthermore, he said the Solomon government was thankful to IUCN for the project and for selecting his country as one of the sites and they were looking forward to partner with other island countries to make the project a success.
For the Fiji government, Davetanivalu said although Fiji has its mangrove management, the project will clearly define how it should protect its mangroves.
Project manager Nolan says adopting an Ecosystem-based Management (EBM) approach, the project focuses on finding stakeholder-based solutions supported by scientific evidence and traditional knowledge to positively influence decision-making at all levels of governance.
"We are now looking at processes to encourage sustainable change through the development of sharing ownership, responsibilities and benefits by all parties," said Nolan.
The MESCAL project aims to assist in climate-proofing coastal communities and sustaining livelihoods by promoting investments in mangrove and associated coastal ecosystems in the five participating countries. Benefits that will come out of the MESCAL project include improved baseline information about the biological, social, cultural and economic aspects of mangroves, increased awareness of the role of mangroves and associated ecosystems in supporting livelihoods and providing resilience to the impacts of climate change and strengthened integrated local to national governance of mangroves and associated ecosystems. The project will also explore the potential of using mangrove ecosystem based carbon credits from conserved and restored mangroves for participating in the REDD related global carbon trade.
Benefits will Increase awareness about environmental, social and economic values of mangrove ecosystems for making informed decisions about their appropriate use and management.
Also, development of appropriate partnerships across all levels of society to safeguard and sustain Oceania's mangrove ecosystems in supporting livelihoods and adaptation to climate change.
It will strengthen enabling framework conditions, including institutional and social capacity, to encourage joint management of mangrove ecosystems through shared ownership and responsibility between national and sub-national governments, communities and private sector.
In addition, stakeholder-based identification and development of cost effective governance of mangrove ecosystems - organizational arrangements, decision-making processes, mechanisms, and incentives for change -that encourages mangrove conservation and restoration, reflecting principles of
ecosystem based joint management.
And improved GIS-based information, including scientific and traditional knowledge on environmental, social, cultural and economic aspects of mangrove ecosystems, to support effective stakeholder engagement and governance, for improved adaptation to climate change and sustainable livelihoods.
Potential for using mangrove ecosystem based carbon credits from conserved and or restored mangroves assessed and feasibility of participation in the REDD related global carbon trade identified.
The project is being funded by the German Federal Ministry for theEnvironment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) under its International Climate Protection Initiative.
Those who benefit will include vulnerable coastal communities, traditional/customary decision makers, Government government level decision-makers and Non non-governmental agencies.
Project partners include University of the South Pacific (USP), Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), WorldFish, Solomon Islands Pacific Base, Vanuatu Cultural Centre and Tonga Community Development Trust, as well as the governments of participating countries.