Mangroves are a unique and extraordinary group of plants, that grow on sheltered coastline and estuaries, throughout the tropics, sub-tropics and warm temperate areas.  They create an important coastal ecosystem – mangrove forests.

In Africa 33 countries border the ocean, and 26 of these have mangrove forest, but they are being lost, degraded or depleted at alarming rates. In some places this is caused by clearing for large scale agriculture and industrial activity and the ‘development’ and pollution that follows. In some areas it’s a result of small scale but long-term over-exploitation by local communities.

Mangroves provide habitat for thousands of species of wildlife, birds, mammals, reptiles, insects, crustaceans and meiofauna (tiny invertebrates). Manatee, pygmy hippo, otters, crocodile, turtles, in Madagascar even lemurs, make their home in mangroves.  Mangroves are essential breeding and nursery grounds for a huge number of  marine species including economically important fish, crabs, crayfish, shrimps and  lobster. Mangroves act as a buffer against storms and rising sea level, protecting coastal communities, their property and livelihoods. Above all many coastal communities depend on mangroves for their livelihoods: in Nigeria 89% of fishers fish mostly in and around mangroves.

The Lamu Archipelago, off the northern Kenya coast, has over 60% of Kenya’s mangrove forest. The trees have been used for centuries by local people, but demand grew until it started to degrade the forests. In 2003 LaMCoT, a local community group and Tusk partner, tried to combat these changes by working with the Kenya Forestry department to protect areas of mangroves, however more work needed to be done and in 2008 they held their first mangrove replanting with Kikozi, a local community group. The changes to mangroves were also noticed by other communities, and within their small villages, community groups came together to protect and replant.

LaMCoT and Africa Underwater, have worked with PACE to produce our latest short film – Mangrove conservation. It explains what mangroves are, why they are important, why and how people on Lamu became involved in conserving their mangroves, and the benefits they are seeing from using them sustainably. It shows that small scale efforts can make a difference, and what individuals and small groups can do at their own level, to ensure their mangroves remain healthy and productive. The film is available with English, Swahili or French subtitles.

A new action sheet – Mangrove planting and sustainability – provides more detail for people interested in small scale practical mangrove conservation, who want to know how to ‘plant’ and grow mangroves in areas that are degrading or have limited natural regeneration.

 

Planting mangrove propagules (seedlings) on Lamu.