Blog | 01 Ago, 2023

Local communities - Leading the charge towards mangroves conservation and restoration

This year marks the 8th anniversary of the international Day for the Conservation of Mangrove Ecosystems. The designated day is annually observed to raise awareness on the importance of mangroves as a unique, special and vulnerable ecosystem, and to promote solutions for their sustainable management, conservation and uses.

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Photo: C3 plotting of mangrove propagules, Fiji. © C3 Fiji

IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature is often synonymous with work on environment conservation. One such programme hosted here in IUCN’s Oceania Regional Office is the Nature based Solutions (NbS) programme which hosts the Kiwa Initiative- small and medium grant programme,working with locally based projects on climate adaptation activities in response to climate change impacts- an issue that is fast becoming visible in our region.

The Kiwa Initiative – Nature-based Solutions (NbS) for climate resilience aims at strengthening the climate change resilience of Pacific Islands ecosystems, communities and economies through NbS, by protecting, sustainably managing and restoring biodiversity- “Using Nature to Conserve Nature”. The Initiative was launched in 2020 with EUR 31 million which has amassed to more than EUR 75 million (FJD 185 million) from donors; the European Union (EU), Agence française de développement (AFD), Global Affairs Canada (GAC), Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT).The Kiwa Initiative has established partnerships with the Pacific Community (SPC), the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and the Regional Office of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN ORO).

Kiwa Initiative donors field visit to Vanualevu, FijiPhoto: Etika Qica

For this year’s International Day for the Conservation of Mangrove Ecosystems, we will be spotlighting two Kiwa Initiative projects, who are working on mangroves conservation and restoration within their respective communities!

The first project focusses on Restoring Mangroves for Livelihoods in Fiji. While the second, works with Customary Law for Fisheries and Marine Ecosystem Restoration in Timor-Leste.

Restoring mangroves for livelihoods in Fiji – Community Centred Conservation (C3)

C3, a Labasa, Fiji-based NGO working closely with local communities on the conservation and restoration of mangrove forests and associated livelihoods within LMMAs of three sites targeting 1 ha per site. This project will target at least 1600 people in Macuata, to raise their level of awareness on the importance of mangrove forests and LMMAs as Nature Based Solutions. Their work with community members, also focused on women to promote and build capacity in sustainable mangrove livelihoods such as crab-fattening and the use of efficient fuel stoves. C3’s Coordinator Ms Asena Steiner explains that their work in communities also targets children, who are a part of the reef rangers’ program where they are taught the importance of reefs, mangroves and marine life and their interconnectedness with their community and the land. “Whatever happens to one of these resources will impact on the other parts of the food chain cycle. So, it is important that they realise the value of their ecosystems earlier in life, and their role as stewards to these resources.”-

Using customary law for fisherings and marine ecosystem restoration in Timor-Leste – Blue Ventures

Blue Ventures, an International NGO, with itsTimor-Leste-based office, has undertaken extensive work with local communities on resource conservation, mapping and reviving traditional knowledge to further complement their community-based mangrove conservation efforts. The project implemented by Blue Ventures aims to protect and monitor critical marine habitats and fisheries to address declining food security, climate change and biodiversity loss.

One of their more recent activities involved the mapping of one of their sites where 14 species of mangroves were identified, with 8 more sites identified as potential reforestation sites. Timor-Leste is also home to some of the world’s highest levels of marine biodiversity, with fisheries underpinning the livelihoods and food security of coastal communities. However, the resilience of coastal ecosystems is being eroded, leaving communities vulnerable to climate risks.

Blue Ventures through their work with communities are using Nature-based Solutions, such as traditional customary-law based management practices to increase the area of ocean under community protection, and working with local partner KFF to plant and protect mangroves, this project aims to empower and enable communities to better manage their fisheries and the biodiversity that underpins them.

In conclusion, mangroves do play a critical role towards the sustainable management and preservation of ecosystem services. This includes food security; a unique habitat marine organism and as a vital source of livelihoods to communities. All of these ecosystem services are not only important to our survival but is immensely critical to the survival of ecosystems, and safeguards towards the inevitable impacts of climate change to our homes and resources. This year’s theme for the protection and restoration of mangroves, is befitting given that more than one in six mangroves species worldwide are in danger of extinction due to coastal development and other factors, including climate change, logging and agriculture according to the global assessment on the conservation status of mangroves for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The Pacific is dependent on these unique ecosystems that is able to support a wide variety of flora and fauna in our region.

As we endeavour to raise awareness around this critical resource, we urge our good readers to reflect on this important day and of how precious mangroves are to our survival and those of our future generations. Let’s be better stewards of our resources and ensure that these are maintained for generations to come.

July 26th marks the world mangroves day, as we gaze out to our tranquil oceans that are lined with these majestic mangroves, let’s be a little more mindful of the life that it provides to our ecosystems and our own - Wishing you a belated Happy and Reflective World Mangroves Day!

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By Mereoni Tavakaturaga-Robinson (ESMS and Gender Officer, Kiwa Initiative)

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