Tanzania’s Rufiji River Delta hosts the largest mangrove forest in Eastern Africa, a critical coastal ecosystem that provides habitat for migratory birds and diverse marine life, stabilizes the shoreline, and traps sediment and nutrients washing downstream in the Rufiji River. Unfortunately, overexploitation and degradation of these mangrove forests present a persistent challenge, and previous restoration and sustainable management efforts have yielded mixed results.
Dr. Mwita Mangora of the University of Dar es Salaam and the Western Indian Ocean Mangrove Network knows this well from his many trips to the Rufiji Delta. Dr. Mangora works with local communities to understand the causes of mangrove degradation and identify ways to apply local knowledge in mangrove restoration and sustainable management.
“Attempts to restore degraded mangroves through planting has become a common undertaking, thought to be easy and cheap,” he explains. “However, experiences gauged over the recent past indicate that many such restoration projects have been met with more questions on their impacts and sustainability, because of more reported failures in many countries as a result of poor understanding of the local ecosystem requirements and poor applications of the principles of ecological restoration, of which Rufiji Delta provides a vivid example.”
In order to address these concerns, Dr. Mangora and others collaborated to produce a set of guidelines focused on challenges and opportunities for mangrove restoration throughout the region. Guidelines on Mangrove Ecosystem Restoration for the Western Indian Ocean Region draws on experiences and lessons learned from past community-based mangrove restoration efforts to provide a step-by-step approach to ecological mangrove restoration. The guidelines build on existing guidance by taking into account region-specific, previously lacking socio-economic context to maximize opportunities for local communities.
According to Dr. Carl Trettin, a mangrove scientist from the U.S. Forest Service, “The involvement of scientists from six countries within the region ensured that principles of mangrove restoration were conveyed reflecting local conditions and experiences, as well as governance and management considerations.” Dr. Trettin provided technical support for the guidelines through the USAID Sustainable Wetland Adaptation and Mitigation Program (SWAMP).
The guidelines target communities, civil society, national agencies, and practitioners involved in mangrove conservation, providing information they can use to strengthen future mangrove conservation and sustainable management efforts. A major focus is on establishing a solid foundation for mangrove restoration – a goal that can only be achieved through appropriate and adequate engagement of local communities.
The guidelines were published by the United Nations Environment Programme Nairobi Convention, USAID, and the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association. They were developed based on expertise and experience from local communities and numerous experts and practitioners representing government, civil society, academia, and private companies.
For more information, visit the following sites:
Olivia Freeman is the U.S. Forest Service International Programs’ Program Coordinator for the SilvaCarbon and SWAMP programs in Africa. She coordinates technical assistance on forest monitoring, estimating greenhouse gases emissions from land use change and building research capacity on peatland and coastal forests. Before joining the U.S. Forest Service International Programs, Olivia worked for the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) in Nairobi, Kenya. She has an MSc and BSc in Resource Management and Environmental Studies, and Natural Resource Conservation (Honors) from the University of British Columbia.
Dr. Mwita Mangora
Dr. Mwita Mangora lectures at the Institute of Marine Sciences of the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. He is a key player in the Western Indian Ocean Mangrove Network (WIOMN), serving as Regional Secretary. He conducts research on mangroves of Tanzania and the Western Indian Ocean region. His current focus is Rufiji Delta, exploring the resource condition and conservation measures, He is co-author of the recently published Western Indian Ocean Mangrove Restoration Guidelines developed as a tool to ensure success and sustainability of restoration initiatives based on local experiences and lessons.