20,000 mangroves strong: Planting roots, securing a more resilient future
DEFENDING AGAINST THE TIDE
The coast of Mauritius is increasingly vulnerable and exposed to the risks of climate change, leaving their societies and economies at risk. The coastal communities are already impacted: bearing witness to land erosion and changes in fish stock that threaten their livelihoods. Faced with the “new” reality of sea-level rise and frequent tidal surges, the local populations of some coastal areas are taking matters into their own hands. They are implementing strategies to adapt and to establish new, climate-resilient approaches to safeguard their future. The inhabitants of the village of Grand Sable, a small planters’ community wedged between the mountains and the lagoon, are planting 20,000 mangroves, which serve as natural coastal defence to protect from rising water, flood and lagoon siltation. Local associations have joined forces and are innovating new techniques for incubating and planting mangroves to yield better results.
We are already experiencing the effects of climate change. On the one hand, our land is eroding and part of the mountains washes into the sea in times of rain. On the other hand, the livelihood of our spouses, which are for the most part fishermen, decrease year after year because of the continuing impoverishment/despoliation of the lagoon. – Geraldine Aristide, founder-secretary of the Grand Sable Sand Women Planters, Farmers, Entrepreneurs Association
A MORE RESILIENT COASTLINE
A STRONGER ECONOMY AND FAIRER SOCIETY - EMPOWERING THE WOMEN OF GRAND SABLE
Building more resilient coastlines is also contributing to a stronger local economy and fairer society. The 20,000 Mangrove Strong project is not only increasing the resilience of the coastline, it is also addressing important economic and social issues. It is opening up new opportunities for income-generating activities and women’s empowerment.
The women of Grand Sable are playing an important role in sensitizing the community on the risks and impacts of climate change, and the benefits of adapting the local ecosystems and economies to climate change. Twenty-five women are graduates of a “Train the Trainers” programme targeted at raising awareness in schools and the community at large: over 700 people are expected to benefit. The programme also teaches the women how to produce cloth bags, which can be used as marketing materials in their outreach campaigns and be sold at a profit to generate income and contribute to household expenditures.
The project has strengthened the group of women, by giving them the knowledge and skills to take responsibility for the issues they are facing. It has built their confidence and substantially improved their communication skills.
By planting the mangrove propagules (seeds), women obtain an income for their families, and afterwards, once the land is stabilized, they can engage in other types of planting, which in turn supports the livelihoods of their fisherman husbands. – Geraldine Aristide, founder-secretary of the Grand Sable Sand Women Planters, Farmers, Entrepreneurs Association
RESTORING HOPE FOR A MORE PROSPEROUS FUTURE
A FURTHER DIMENSION OF CLIMATE CHANGE ADAPTATION
The benefits of mangrove implantation are far-reaching and have the potential to not only protect but to improve the local ecosystem by restoring equilibrium; mangroves play an important role in balancing the diversity of marine life in the area. An increase in mangroves could result in improvements in local fishing with positive consequences on individual livelihoods.
Mangroves will allow fish to repopulate the lagoon and it gives us hope as fishermen. - Roodredeo Daumoo, Grand Sable Fishermen Association
GOING BEYOND GRAND SABLE
UPSCALING THE NURSERY METHOD
The simple, low-cost, yet highly effective nursery method is scalable and can be applied in other coastal regions in Mauritius and beyond: it has the potential to offer positive results outside of Grand Sable. Funds are earmarked by the Government of Mauritius (USD 60K) to replicate the project. The private sector is also interested in incorporating the response in their Corporate Responsibility Scheme programmes.
AN ADAPTATION FUND (AF) PROJECT
In Mauritius, this AF funded initiative overseen by UNDP, is implemented through the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development. The combination of local economic empowerment, early warning and disaster preparedness systems, and agricultural adaptation has benefited and will continue to benefit many families in the region.
CREATING A LONG-TERM VISION
MANGROVES FOR ECOTOURISM
There is strength in numbers: in nature and in government. Local-level action can form the basis for national strategy development. The 20,000 Mangroves Strong project sparked interest at the national level in the Ministry of Environment to look at the longer-term benefits, beyond climate change adaptation, of mangrove implantation, including the development a new, ecotourism industry in Mauritius.
Nothing will prevent the mangrove trees from developing into forests. Then we can build walkways and extend canals, with flat bottom boats to develop ecotourism specific to the mangroves. – Ministry of Environment
FOOTNOTES: Story by Caitlin Connelly and UNDP-GEF/GLECRDS Team, Photos: Andrea Egan/UNDP and UNDP Mauritius