In Madagascar, restoring mangroves and building resilience

Mangrove plants grow along the coast

Human pressures on mangrove ecosystems are not uncommon and can be exacerbated by the ever-looming threat of climate change, leaving people with few income options beyond cutting mangroves. To help alleviate that pressure, WWF is focused on ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction and supporting alternative livelihoods.

Human pressures like these on mangrove ecosystems are not uncommon and can be exacerbated by the ever-looming threat of climate change, leaving people with few income options beyond cutting mangroves. To help alleviate that pressure, WWF is focused on ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction and supporting alternative livelihoods. I was in Madagascar with my WWF-US colleagues Anita van Breda and Luz Cervantes, who were hosting a series of disaster risk reduction workshops on integrating the environment into development planning, climate change adaptation planning, and pre- and post-disaster humanitarian action. The workshops were held with WWF Madagascar and their government and non-profit partners in the capitol and the northern district of Ambilobe. One memorable discussion was the emphasis on landscape-level conservation approaches—WWF Madagascar colleagues identified upland erosion as a threat to mangroves due to increased sedimentation.

Mihary Raparivo, WWF Madagascar Diana Seascape Manager, releases tilapia into a freshwater fish farm in Ankazomahity village.

Releasing tilapia into the fish farm.

Cut mangrove trees alongside small new mangrove plants

Cut mangrove trees and small replanted propagules in Ankorera village.

After the workshop, we traveled with our WWF Madagascar colleagues to visit people running alternative livelihood businesses that diversify income sources and ease stressors such as overfishing. We released the first baby fish at a newly constructed small-scale freshwater fish farm and visited a beekeeper who showed us his hives and spoke about how his bees use mangrove flowers for honey production.

Following the livelihood visits, the Siranana-Ankorera community welcomed us to their Fokontany for lunch before we visited the cut mangrove stand and listened to Odilon Tovondrazae run Climate Crowd community interviews, where community members voiced their concerns about climate change. In particular, disruptions in rainfall patterns are affecting crops and high winds are changing traditional fishing routes. The conversations made it clear to me just how embedded the drive and dedication for mangroves and the environment are in this community. They were passionate in their discussion—climate change is already having a measurable impact—and value mangrove conservation. 

Unfortunately, human pressures on mangroves may become even more likely as climate change impacts the intensity and frequency of disasters such as cyclones and droughts. Placing all the blame on people, however, is ineffective as these disasters are severely impacting livelihoods and ways of life. Through the mangrove project, WWF Madagascar supports community-based natural resource management groups and works with them to integrate the environment into disaster planning. Alleviating stressors on people allows mangroves to flourish, and functioning mangrove ecosystems provide economic and environmental benefits to the surrounding communities.

Not far away from the cut mangrove stand, we hiked to a viewpoint where we could see hundreds of acres of dense mangroves leading out to Ambaro Bay, managed by the Antsatrana community-based organization. “WWF started to support the pilot communities in Ambaro bay to protect, manage and restore the mangroves in 2016," said Lilia Rasolofomanana, WWF Madagscar's Mangrove Coordinator. "WWF is now collaborating with 20 community-based organizations to reinforce the community management of the mangroves, to reduce or even stop the threats to mangroves, to promote climate-smart restoration of this ecosystem and to improve the communities' livelihoods and resilience to climate change.” 

I was lucky to experience the amazing work that WWF Madagascar is doing firsthand. The impact of this visit has made me an advocate for the mangroves of Madagascar and left a lasting impression of the dedication that my Madagascar colleagues and their local partners have for conservation.

Mangroves managed by the Antsatrana community-based organization, leading out to Ambaro Bay.