CAMARV: Capacity Building for Mangrove Assessment, Restoration and Valuation in East Africa
Mangroves are tropical and sub-tropical forests that grow in the inter-tidal zone. They are valuable for many reasons: they provide shelter for juvenile fish, they protect shorelines from erosion, they filter sediments and pollution out of rivers and their wood can be used for timber and fuel.
They are also amongst the most productive ecosystems on earth and are capable of storing large quantities of carbon both above-ground (as wood) and below-ground (as dead roots and carbon particles derived from the sea, and eventually as peat). This means losing them could accelerate global warming. Despite their importance, mangroves are being lost rapidly, with 1-2% of these forests destroyed each year.
This project aimed to help conserve and restore mangroves in East Africa. We did this by developing the expertise and capacity needed to exploit new and emerging markets for 'ecosystem services'. In East Africa, most mangrove destruction occurred because of poverty; people needing fuel and building materials but cannot afford to buy them from other sources, so used the mangroves despite often being aware of their importance. If money was available to communities for mangrove conservation and restoration this would provide a powerful conservation incentive.
Our project consortium had experience in running community based forestry projects, including one in Mozambique that utilised voluntary payments for carbon sequestration by western companies and individuals to fund new tree planting and conservation. We applied this experience to mangroves. We trained African scientists, non-governmental organisation (NGO) and community workers in a range of skills, and developed networks and methodologies that helped our African partner institutions exploit these new market opportunities.
This required training and development at each stage of the following project development plan:
- Assessment of extent and quality of ecosystem: We needed to know how much mangrove forest was present and whether it was in good health (or for example whether it had been heavily poached for wood). This could be done using satellite imagery, but work on the ground ('groundtruthing') needed to relate the images to the reality, for example to determine the characteristic features of degraded woodland.
- Assessment of threats: We needed to know which forests were most threatened, for example by looking at patterns of past land use or by measuring risk factors such as proximity to large cities. This was important for governments in their conservation planning, but would have also been required in order to access conservation money from the new REDD (Reductions in Emissions from forest Destruction and Degradation) fund developed by the United Nations.
- Assessment of ecosystem value: We needed to demonstrate the potential monetary value of the mangrove ecosystems, by 'pricing' the various services they provided. In some cases this would have been useful as a tool for influencing decision makers - by giving a demonstration in 'hard cash' of the costs of destroying a mangrove - and in others it could translate to real income - for example by calculating the total value of the above and below ground carbon stored.
- Assessment of barriers to the market or to conservation: What factors were likely to prevent projects working successfully, and how could we address these? For example, it was essential that local communities saw the benefits of any projects run on their behalf. This required careful consultation and co-operation with local people and sensitivity to issues such as land management and tenure. We trained partners in techniques of participatory appraisal and in using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology in mapping local resources. The results of this project development process were proposals for full pilot projects and the establishment of an East African Advisory Group, based in Kenya, that would help oversee projects and encourage communication and good practice in the region.