As part of the Commonwealth @ 70 celebrations, CHEC established a project on mangroves in the Commonwealth, with two parts, the production of a special issue of the CHEC’s Journal “Human Ecology”, available here, and a series of activities supported by the grant of £5000 awarded by the Commonwealth@ 70 Committee. These activities were expected to be completed by 30 June 2020, but were able to include preparations for World Mangrove Day 2020 celebrations. Everything has had to be done under the constraints imposed by the COVID-19 lockdowns and social distancing restrictions. The countries involved were Fiji and Samoa in the Pacific Ocean, India, the Maldives and Malaysia on the Indian Ocean and the Gambia on the Atlantic Ocean.
Pacific Ocean Activities
CHEC’s partners in this region were the Conservation International representatives in Suva and Apia. They both organised Mangrove Day events and used the grant for CHEC to print documents and prepare banners for use both on the day and at future activities.
Indian Ocean activities
All three countries engaged in community activities. India held events at the end of June involving fishermen, aquaculture farmers, and the local community, which have been reported on separately. A World Mangrove Day 2020 event was also planned, but a COVID-19 outbreak in Kerala stopped all gatherings in the area. On July 26th, Dinesh Kaippilly, the organiser wrote: “Our State is facing severe covid issues at present and unable to do any type of activities for the time being. Everyday more than 1000 people are getting positive [test results]”. The planned events will take place when gatherings become possible once more.
In Malaysia a series of communities were involved, with altogether five NGOs/CBOs have participating in using the funding for planting events taking place in nine different sites:
- Penang Inshore Fishermen’s Welfare Association) – 1 planting site in Sg. Acheh. Penang (21st July);
- Kuala Selangor Nature Park (Malaysian Nature Society) – 1 site in Kuala Selangor (24th July);
- Global Environment Centre – 5 sites in Kuala Gula, Lekir, Tg. Surat, Kg. Dato’ Hormat and Sg. Limau (23rd July);
- Kampung Kilim Community Cooperative – 1 site in Langkawi (26th July); and
- Inspirasi Kawa – Kg. Kuantan Firefly Park (28th July).
In the Maldives, alarming reports of an unexplained phenomenon causing the die-off of huge swathes of mangrove trees in Neykurendhoo island in the far north of the Maldives, had been received since March 2020. The CHEC project was used to draw attention to the issue and initiate some remedial actions. The project helped to raise awareness of the problem by assisting in the launching of the #SaveNeykurendhooKandoofaa campaign.
The Save Maldives Campaign, under an initiative of the local island council, collaborated with Mangrove Action Project – MAPs, the IUCN Mangrove Specialist Group together with local experts, joined forces to investigate the mass die-off. A team of volunteers travelled to Neykurendhoo to collect various samples from the mangroves site and obtain documentary evidence for further scientific study. The team also assisted the Island Council with community based public consultations with residents in Neykurendhoo to obtain local knowledge and insights. All activities were carried out with strict adherence to social distancing practices and relevant guidelines from the Neykurendhoo Island COVID-19 Taskforce.
The main objectives of this activity were to better understand the causes of the mangroves die-off and to collaborate with community members, businesses, civil society organisations along with government offices to conserve this critical ecosystem to the community. The findings from this preliminary field survey will be used to compile a preliminary report that will be submitted to relevant government authorities to support conservation efforts. The Save Maldives Campaign members were encouraged to see that after their study visit, the Environment Protection Agency also visited Neykurendhoo to make an assessment of the mangrove die-off.
Atlantic Ocean activities
In West Africa, relatively few of the mangroves in The Gambia are protected.
With the Commonwealth @ 70 funding, CHEC Gambia at the Gunjur Environmental Protection and Development Group (GEPADG) has carried out further mangrove planting and restoration activities and is encouraging the development of eco-tourism facilities. The key aims of the activities were: 1) to ensure the sustainable use of natural resources through community-based management; and 2) to engage youths, particularly the students in GEPADG’s ongoing youth training programs, in biodiversity conservation, ecotourism and bird watching technique. In particular they aimed to help students on lockdown during school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
12 youths, including women, with 3 trainers participated in GEPADG’s field trip activities. Hundreds of people participated in the annual beach cleaning with coconut tree planting activities. Several hundreds of people are expected to participate in GEPADG’s final 2020 tree planting and mangrove regeneration program in Sifoe village in August. Sifoe village lies to the east of Gunjur in the southwest of the Gambia.
Report by Ian Douglas
29 July 2020