Africa, Environment

Tanzanian villagers wake up to realize benefits of mangroves

On eve of Global Day for Conservation of Mangroves, coastal villagers tell Anadolu Agency they are launching plantation drive to clean environment, save soil

Kizito Makoye   | 25.07.2022
Tanzanian villagers wake up to realize benefits of mangroves File Photo

RUFIJI, Tanzania

Coastal community in the East African country of Tanzania has woken up to the ecological benefits of mangroves – a shrub that grows in saline or brackish water – by planting 250,000 trees to act as storm barriers and dissipate big waves.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency on the eve of International Day for the Conservation of Mangrove Ecosystem, which is being observed on Tuesday, Muhsin Jaffary Mgunda, a ward leader at Nyamisati village in southern coastal Rufiji district, said in the past the region has lost many coastal trees because of the indifference of people.

According to a 2011 study by the World Bank, a single hectare of mangrove forest stores an average of 11,025 tons of carbon, four times that of tropical rainforests. Besides these shrubs protect inland areas from flooding and filter river water of pollutants and trap excess sediment before it reaches the ocean.

Under the initiative, supervised by the Nyamisati village council, residents a few years ago launched a massive plantation drive in the sprawling Rufiji River delta.

Earlier farmers used to treat mangroves as an obstacle to paddy cultivation.

“People did not realize the ecological value of mangroves beyond using them for firewood and for making timber,” said Mgunda.

Because of this indifference, there was huge depletion of mangrove forests in the Rufiji delta, which is home to 50% of Tanzania’s mangroves.

But of late, local communities are waking up to the reality and are determined to revive the mangrove forests.

Mariam Juma, 59, a farmer in Nyamisati village, told Anadolu Agency that many farmers did not know the benefits of mangroves.

“Our community has positively responded to the call to plant mangroves, we hope the situation will change for the best,” Juma said.

Restoration critical

Juma is among many villagers working to restore mangroves, which had been destroyed by logging, fishing, and farming.

Mwita Mangora, a researcher from the Institute of Marine Sciences University of Dar es Salaam, said restoration of the mangrove was critical, not only to secure sustainable livelihood for the community but also to curb the impact of climate change.

For years, Mangora and his team have been working to reverse the degradation of the mangrove by engaging local villagers.

“We strongly believe in public education. When people are educated enough, they will see the value of trees and protect them,” he said.

Jummanne Kikumbi, the chairman of the Nyamisati village committee, believes mangrove conservation is the best way forward for the villagers.

“We must preserve these trees to prevent flooding, and sea storms,” Kikumbi told Anadolu Agency.

According to him, more than 250,000 mangrove trees have been planted in the past two years adding that the villagers are still working to identify more areas with degraded plantations.

“We don’t tire to tell people to avoid cutting down trees,” Kikumbi said.

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