Restoring mangroves – a positive economic option

Restoring mangroves – a positive economic option

Restoring mangroves – a positive economic option

In the past 50 years, around one third of the world’s mangrove forests have been lost to urbanisation, agriculture, aquaculture, commercial forestry and changes in water quality. Policymakers have recently begun to realise the importance of mangroves for fisheries and coastal protection. As a result, mangrove reforestation programmes are becoming popular throughout Asia.

There has been little research into how replantingmangroves affects the lives of people living around them. To address this, theUniversity of Wales, Bangor, in the UK in collaboration with the SoutheastAsian Fisheries Development Centre Aquaculture Department (SEAFDEC/AQD) carriedout a study in Aklan province of Western Visayas, the Philippines. The study looked at the directeconomic benefits from a reforested mangrove system to local people, andcompared these with natural mangrove systems and aquaculture ponds.

The study site is considered to represent best practicein mangrove reforestation. Mangroves in the area had largely been destroyed forfirewood and construction and converted to other uses. The reforestationprogramme aimed to increase stocks of fish and wood and stabilise theshoreline.

A cooperative of local families, KaliboSave the Mangrove Association ( KASAMA) was given tenureof the land by the government, and carried out the reforestation work. United Services WelfareAssistance Group (USWAG), a non-governmentalorganisation, runs a small ecotourism park for visitors to the mangroves. Closecollaboration between the local government, KASAMA and USWAG was an important factor in the project’s success.

The research shows:

  • Almost all peopleinvolved in fishing believed that mangroves were important for protectionagainst typhoons and as nurseries for young fish and shrimp.
  • About two thirdsof fishers were also convinced that mangroves increased fisheries production.
  • Fishers whofished exclusively in the mangroves were most aware of their benefits and mostwilling to pay to protect them, even though they earned the least of allfishers.
  • Around half of thefish and molluscs caught in the mangroves were eaten locally, indicating theirimportance for food security.
  • As well as fishingincomes, people can make money from visitor fees to the park and sustainabletimber harvest.

The study showed that the replantedmangroves can produce as much fish as aquaculture ponds and natural mangroves inthe Philippines. Other services, including protection from typhoons and foodsecurity, were also considered important. Local people recognised their valueand would not sell them for conversion to ponds even if they were the owners.

There are several implicationsfor coastal reforestation projects in the Philippines and elsewhere:

  • Mangroves areoften undervalued but can produce as much fisheries income as aquaculture ponds.Revenue from tourism and timber can increase economic benefits further.
  • Planting costsfor initial reforestation are low compared with potential returns, butrepresent significant financial outlay for local people. Projects may need externalfunds to get started.
  • Alongsideeconomic benefits, mangroves provide coastal protection and food security. The2004 Asian tsunami has put coastal reforestation high on the list of prioritiesfor Southeast Asia, and mangroves are actually more effective in protectingagainst typhoons than other options, such as coconut plantations.

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