by Alfredo Quarto,
MAP Executive Director
MAP's Community-Based Ecological Mangrove Restoration (CBEMR) program seeks to empower local communities to restore and steward their mangroves while deriving sustainable mangrove-based livelihoods. Involving local communities in mangrove restoration is very important, as it offers participants a sense of empowerment and involvement in resolving their own environmental, social and economic issues of community development.
Last month, Mangrove Action Project (MAP), Falls Brook Centre (FBC) and the Honduran group CODA worked together to implement a training program for the restoration of threatened mangrove ecosystems in the region around San Lorenzo in the Gulf of Fonseca, Honduras. Mangrove habitats in the Gulf of Fonseca are threatened by shrimp aquaculture, fishing with explosives, disrupted inland watersheds, agricultural chemical pollution, sugar cane, African oil palm and watermelon production expansion, rising sea levels and new industrial policies.
The goal of the project was to build capacity of 25 Honduran conservationists and fisherfolk in Community-Based Ecological Mangrove Restoration (CBEMR) and to restore, monitor and conserve a demonstration site of around 2.5 or more ha in Honduras in the Gulf of Fonseca.
This project is part of a five-year program: it consists of one year of Community-Based Ecological Mangrove Restoration (CBEMR) training and actual restoration and follow-up monitoring and evaluation. The CBEMR methodology seeks to understand species and community ecology, the normal hydrology and to assess modifications to hydrology or added stress prior to selecting the restoration site, and to restore normal hydrology or reduce the source of stress and planting mangroves as needed.
The first three phases of the project just took place last month. Phase 1 is the Community-Based Ecological Mangrove Restoration (CBEMR) training workshop, during which 25 Honduran, 1 Nicaraguan and 2 El Salvadoran practitioners learned the CBEMR methodology. Phase 2 consisted of data collection and the evaluation of degraded mangrove forests in order to select a pilot Ecological Mangrove Restoration (EMR) site. Phase 3 involved the actual implementation of the CBEMR methodology, and the restoration of the selected pilot site. Phase 4 is the ongoing last phase that involves the needed follow-up including monitoring and evaluation of the restoration site.
The United Nations has ranked Central America high on its list of regions threatened by climate change. Massive deforestation, unsustainable agricultural practices, and poor watershed management has left the countries in Central America dangerously vulnerable to the sea-level rise and extreme weather events provoked by global warming. For the period of 2012 to 2016, the government of Honduras has declared the following target a national development priority: "A productive Honduras that generates decent employment, benefits from its natural resources in a sustainable and integrated way, and reduces the risk of disasters caused by environmental vulnerability". Restoration and conservation of the country's wetlands, especially their mangrove ecosystems, is a vital part of the country's disaster mitigation and coastal protection strategy.
The mangrove ecosystem of the Gulf of Fonseca, which has been designated a Ramsar site (#1000) of international importance in 1999, is in serious need of concerted work to restore its mangroves. Participants in the recent CBEMR training included local NGOs, fishers and ecologists some of whom have been doing mangrove restoration with Falls Brook Centre (FBC) on the north coast of Honduras, who had taken the earlier training workshop last October in Cuyamel on the Caribbean coast. As well, others living and working in the Gulf of Fonseca joined us. MAP contracted the services of Dominic Wodehouse to lead this workshop. Also, the MAP invited past participants from the 2011 workshops in El Salvador’s Jiquilisco Bay, whereby Walberto Gallegas of Asociacion Mangle presented on his NGO’s amazing work done there after the CBEMR training there, whereby an eight kilometer channel was dug by hand to drain the standing water that was drowning more than a 100 ha of mangroves in the Jiquilisco Bay of El Salvador. The whole process as shown in his presentation was very impressive, and the results quite successful.
Roger Flores of Cuyamel also presented on a small-scale mangrove restoration project at San Martin, where again clearing debris and reopening an existing channel brought impressive early results, as the natural hydrology and topography was brought back via CBEMR.
The workshop itself, though a success, did run into several problems, one of which I bring to our readers’ attention via the letters to Ramsar and to the government officials of Honduras. We are still working on a final report on the recent workshop, but I hope this note raises some concern about the need to really conserve and restore our still vanishing mangroves!