by Cicelin Cicelin RAKOTOMAHAZO and Dolce RANDRIANANDRASAZIKY, Blue Forests southwest team, Madagascar
“Planting mangroves is not a question of money, but a question of our future”, said a group of women from the island fishing village of Lamboara, situated in the picturesque Bay of Assassins located within the Velondriake Locally Managed Marine Area (LMMA), Southwest Madagascar, as they plucked the mangrove seedlings ready for replantation.
Few can refute the notion that everything in the world (whether living or not) has a purpose and plays an important role influencing and benefiting the lives of human beings globally. Amongst the vast natural service providers of the world, mangroves play a critical role for humans in coastal regions around the world. This ecosystem provides food, support marine food webs and act as fisheries spawning and nursery habitats; are a source of timber fuel wood and charcoal and provide protection from erosion and natural events including storm surges. On a global scale, they possess an enormous capacity to store and sequester carbon (generally store 6.5 million tonnes in their biomass and soil!), and have strong potential for mitigating impacts of climate change.
In Madagascar mangroves, while vastly important, are under threat and need protecting. No one understands the importance of mangroves more than the communities in the Bay of Assassins, who depend on them for their livelihoods. The village of Lamboara, has been involved in community-based seaweed farming since 2009 and became part of BV’s Plan Vivo mangrove project in 2013. This initiative aims to ultimately help local communities to generate income from the sustainable management, rehabilitation and conservation of mangrove habitats.
After a series of education and outreach sessions concerning potential impacts of climate change on coastal areas and the importance of mangrove forests in future coastal protection and climate change mitigation, as well as information about the Plan Vivo project, Lamboara chose to opt into the Plan Vivo scheme. Following extensive participatory zoning exercises of their mangroves for future management, Lamboara recently embarked on its first mangrove planting effort!
This mangrove planting effort was held over two days; the first day consisted of training for all those interested, followed by a meeting with the village President, 21 female and 1 male seaweed farmers. Three Blue Forests team members also trekked out to the island’s mangrove forest, located not far from the village, to learn how to select and collect the best mangrove seedlings.
Three species of mangrove were chosen for replanting (Ceriops tagal, Rhizophora mucronata and Bruguieria gymnorhiza), where only the seedlings displaying brown colouration on the body and yellow colouration on the tops were selected. To collect the seedlings you pull them smoothly from the mangrove tree (they should come off the tree easily without needing to apply much force) and then plant them into pre-selected muddy areas that are known to be regularly submerged during high tides (especially important). When selecting areas for planting, it is also good practice to select areas that have previously supported mangrove ecosystems (i.e. deforested areas), so that you can be reasonably sure that the area is suitable for mangrove growth.
Once everyone was confident and understood the process, we started hiking around the muddy (and sticky) mangrove forest to collect the seedlings. Even though it was swelteringly hot during the day, it was also really fun as the women initiated a competition of who could collect the most seedlings.
Within only half an hour, everyone was back together and had managed to collect a total of 2362 seedlings (15 Rhizophora mucronata, 357 Bruguiera gymnorrhiza and 1990 Ceriops tagal)! It took us almost the same time again just to count the mangrove seedlings. On the second day we started by selecting the good seedlings, and once finished started with the actual planting.
By the end, we had 1707 seedlings in total (1406: Ceriops tagal, 14: Rhizophora mucronata and 287: Bruguieria gymnorhiza) and were ready to plant. The women were worried at first that they would not be able to plant all the seedlings because there weren’t enough people (only 22) and that the area they had suggested for planting was too narrow.
Despite the concerns, we began the planting in Bezezike, the area proposed during the mangrove zoning. Bezezike is located at around 400m south of the village, and had been previously assessed and deemed suitable for mangrove plantation by the Blue Forests team. Seedlings were planted at a two pace interval with people spaced 2m apart (see the photo below).
Contrary to their anxieties about completing the planting, with much determination, these women finished planting all the seedlings in only 45 minutes and expressed surprise that the area was definitely large enough.
Everyone was very pleased with their efforts and impressed that the process was so easy and could be done by independently of Blue Ventures. This is only the first step in the Bay of Assassins but a very important one. The more people realise that they can contribute to mangrove conservation, the more promise there is for the future of not just the mangroves in the Bay of Assassins, but for the communities as well.