Mangroves for the Future, Madagascar

Blue Ventures is a marine conservation organisation that aims to rebuild tropical fisheries with the poorest coastal communities.  Founded in 2003, their work has evolved to incorporate a holistic, integrated approach to marine conservation, encompassing marine and fisheries management, sustainable coastal livelihoods, education and community health.

Madagascar’s mangroves support a wealth of globally important marine biodiversity, underpinning traditional livelihoods and fisheries in some of the world’s most vulnerable communities.  They protect coastal communities from high tides, tsunamis and cyclones, as well as give shelter for all types of marine life. However they are being lost at accelerating rates due to unregulated harvesting for timber and charcoal.  The project will work with 5 Community Mangrove Management Associations and 10 schools, providing incentives for reforestation and ensuring that young people in the region have the knowledge to protect their mangroves in the future. An ecotourism / kayaking centre is also being developed nearby which will bring much needed alternative income to the area and income from the tours will go towards costs associated with sustainably managing the mangroves.  The project will:
– reforest 50 hectares of degraded mangrove forest by engaging community members to plant 500,000 trees in exchange for educational equipment for children in the area
– work with 1000 school students to raise their awareness of the importance of mangroves and give them ownership of the reforested areas
– run training programmes on the importance and value of healthy mangroves

The Update

This project has exceeded its reforestation goals by planting 513,263 mangrove seedlings, catalysing the regeneration of 80.4 hectares of Madagascar’s most fragmented mangrove ecosystem. A mixture of three species were planted to retain the biodiversity of the mangroves in the region, as well as species being chosen based on the type of mangroves that were deforested for charcoal production in each specific area. A total of 3,499 people were involved in this reforestation (46% men and 54% women), involving 11 Community Mangrove Management Associations and local schools.

Blue Ventures carried out periodic monitoring of the planted mangroves and indications are that there has been a higher survival rate than expected (average of 89% rather than the expected 80%).

Educational sessions were designed and delivered to two classes in 10 local schools, engaging children between the ages of eight and 10. A total of 33 sessions were held, involving 506 students. The sessions covered the importance of mangroves, mangrove ecology, identification and reforestation, the basic concepts of climate change and lastly, what a Community Mangrove Management Association is and why they provide an important management framework for environmental conservation. The first sessions were led by Blue Ventures and the second by the teacher, employing a ‘train the trainer’ approach; this ensures that the educational programme is repeatable in future years with no support from Blue Ventures. As part of these educational sessions, the children were also taught how to replant mangroves in an ecologically sensitive way, and they were able to contribute to the successful reforestation efforts.

To address the need for educational activities during the long summer school holidays, Blue Ventures established a ‘mangrove summer club’ in partnership with five schools and five Associations. These clubs introduced environmental education in an informal, fun manner. 256 school children attended these clubs over 27 sessions, with 13 Association members also trained in the club curriculum.

A great success all round – and we hope this continues for Blue Ventures and their dedicated team for years to come.

Image: Mangrove Devastation. Image credit: Garth Cripps Blue Ventures