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Tanzania’s mangrove forests matter

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Tanzania’s mangrove forests matter
Mangroves ribbon their way along almost all of Tanzania’s coastline, with a quarter of the population living within 100km of the forests. While most rural coastal dwellers rely on mangroves for their livelihood, it’s impossible to calculate a precise monetary figure or investigate supply chains, as illegal forestry practices keep the true scope of wood extraction activities around the country’s mangroves cloaked in secrecy. Image credit: Leon Louw for WhyAfrica

Tanzania’s mangrove forests matter

Tanzania’s mangrove forests are national assets that hold immense socioeconomic value.

Mangrove forests are vital in the mitigation of the current climate crisis. These trees, found in the intertidal zone between land and sea, are concentrated in the tropics and sub-tropics from Bermuda to Australia.

According to the report Roots of Hope published by the WWF, IUCN and Wetlands International, there were more than 11 million hectares of mangroves worldwide in 2016, collectively storing carbon equivalent of 21 gigatons of CO2. About 14% of these tidal forests are in the Western Indian Ocean region, including African countries like Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, and Tanzania.

Mangrove forests convert carbon at higher rates than any other habitat on earth, storing it for centuries in living plants and the thick peaty soils in which they grow. A mangrove’s roots are held in soils that are waterlogged and oxygen-poor, ever-changing between dry and submerged.

“Mangrove forests are essential ecosystems bound up with livelihoods, not only preserving coastal homes and mitigating the effects of climate change, but generating wealth through natural resources such as timber, fuelwood, fish, honey, and traditional medicines. Mangroves have unquantifiable benefits too, as spiritual sites and scenic and therapeutic destinations.” (quote from Roots of Hope: The socioeconomic value of Mangroves by WWF, IUCN and Wetlands International)

The following is an extract from the report Roots of Hope to draw attention to the importance, threats and conservation and restoration efforts of the Mangrove Forests in Tanzania.

Essential ecosystems in Tanzania (Tanzania’s mangrove forests matter)      

Mangroves ribbon their way along almost all of Tanzania’s coastline, with a quarter of the population living within 100km of the forests. While most rural coastal dwellers rely on mangroves for their livelihood, it’s impossible to calculate a precise monetary figure or investigate supply chains, as illegal forestry practices keep the true scope of wood extraction activities around the country’s mangroves cloaked in secrecy.

Save our Mangroves Now (SOMN) estimates that mangrove timber benefits the economy USD21-million annually, and mangrove poles USD6.4-million annually. Prawns – which are dependent on mangroves for nursery grounds – net about USD3.8-million.

Threat to Mangroves in Tanzania (Tanzania’s mangrove forests matter)      

Widespread poverty exacerbated by population growth has created an overreliance on mangroves, with deforestation driven by uncontrolled and poorly regulated wood harvest, together with land conversion for agriculture, aquaculture, and salt pans.

Multiple sectors, including wildlife and tourism, agriculture, and fishing, play a role in the decline, but none take responsibility or the lead in collaborative conservation efforts.

Participatory forest management strategies have failed to get off the ground, and donor-led restoration initiatives have only succeeded in the short term – until funds dry up.

Conservation and restoration (Tanzania’s mangrove forests matter)      

Mangroves have a complicated root structure, bound to both land and sea, and the solutions to sustainable management can be equally complex and cross-cultural.

Sustainable management of mangroves requires solutions that straddle boundaries. There must be a dedicated mangrove policy and a new legal basis for community co-management arrangements, together with state and non-state interagency and cross-sector coordination across local and national government.

Conservation and restoration should be supported by the private sector, but awareness-raising must happen in all sectors. But above all, mangrove-dependent communities must be helped to find alternative livelihoods – so that they and future generations can continue to benefit from mangroves’ abundance.

(Source: Roots of Hope: The socioeconomic value of mangroves in the Western Indian Ocean region Published by: WWF, IUCN and Wetlands International)

Tanzania’s mangrove forests matter

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