One million mangrove trees shield Indonesia’s coastline from disasters

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By Husni, IFRC

This year, the International Mangrove Day marks an important achievement by the Indonesian Red Cross Society (Palang Merah Indonesia – PMI). Thanks to the efforts of Red Cross staff and volunteers working closely with local communities, more than one million seedlings have been planted across three counties in Indonesia including Aceh, central Java and West Nusa Tenggara, where there is a high risk of disasters such as tsunamis, floods and landslides.

“After the Indian Ocean tsunami struck our shores in 2004, it wiped away all the plants and trees. They were all gone,” said Sulaiman, a community member from Crakmong village in Aceh. “With no vegetation around our village to help reduce the temperature, we experience unusual heatwaves.

Mangrove trees provide an effective natural barrier against destructive storms and flooding, and reduces the momentum and impact of powerful waves. In Aceh, the impact of the mega disaster in 2004 cut a wide swath of destruction across the province, wrecking coastal ecosystems as well as entire villages. As a result, the region became even more exposed and vulnerable to natural and climactic disasters.

Recognising this risk, and with the aim to help build a community that is more resilient in the face of disasters, the Indonesian Red Cross, with financial support from American Red Cross and USAID, initiated a coastal risk reduction programme in 2012. With the target of planting one million mangrove seedlings, the programme aimed at protecting and rehabilitating the coastal environment and introduced alternative livelihoods for affected communities to help them cope with the impacts of climate change.

“Since 2012, we have held a series of workshops for local communities and villagers in the three provinces on how to manage mangrove seedling nurseries so that they can grow and maintain their own plantations respectively,” said Al Akbar Abubakar, the Programme Manager at the American Red Cross in Indonesia.

The Red Cross worked with experts from the Centre for Coastal and Marine Resources Studies from the Bogor Agricultural Institute to train the communities on how to plant and grow mangrove trees.

“This programme is very important to restore coastal ecosystems across Indonesia. We want to leave a green legacy and a healthy environment for our future generation,” said Sumarsono, a Disaster Management Board Member at the Indonesian Red Cross. “I am proud to say that this achievement was the result of all the hard work of the local communities and volunteers.”

Akbar added that the alternative livelihoods have led some community members to selling local foods such as traditional sweet cakes and other food items such as syrup, jam, and honey from the mangrove plants.

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