NAIROBI (Landscape News) — Salomão Bandeira is a marine botanist at Eduardo Mondlane University in Maputo, Mozambique, with expertise on mangrove and seagrass ecosystems.
As a practitioner, Bandeira looks beyond ecology to broader issues such as community engagement in restoration activities. He is a member of the West Indian Ocean Mangrove Network, and he has also been involved in drafting the mangrove management action plan for the country.
He discussed some of what he has learned about making reforestation work for forests and communities around African coastlines and beyond with Landscape News in the run-up to the upcoming Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) in Nairobi.
1. Listen to the locals
“There’s always this idea of, “Oh, restoration is just planting,” but I think it’s actually a combination of things. You need to understand the root causes that brought the degradation in the first place, and then evaluate the need for restoration.
Here in Mozambique, and I think also in many other parts of Africa, mangroves are a big part of our way of life. Sixty percent of Mozambicans live on the coast, and many of them use mangrove forest products every day.
But Mozambique is very cyclone- and flood-prone, so people are also coming to understand that mangroves are a key component for the mitigation of such elements. Where we work in the Limpopo estuary, there was a big drama: there were massive floods, and the river, which is usually about 100 meters across, widened to over 10 kilometers, and about 60 percent of their mangrove forests were wiped out. So that was a major shock, and the communities requested support with reforestation there, and it has been quite successful so far.
I think you have to have community members who want to make it happen. Restoration cannot rely on school kids, or university academics, or others who are just coming and going.”
2. Work with nature
“I’ve been criticizing the way people build mangrove nurseries here. Often, they build them on dry land, and then they try to set up all these ways of watering the seedlings, which need water on a daily basis.
But if you put the nurseries somewhere where the tide can reach them, you don’t need to water them at all. And you really save a lot that way. Unfortunately, there are very few projects in the region where this is done. So it’s one of the things that I always teach people, whenever I go to the field.”
3. Involve women
“In many African societies, a lot of the livelihood activities are done by women. But sometimes they are not involved in restoration work from the start: I know there have been examples where the men have a meeting first, and then they bring women in.
I think if you want to do restoration and community engagement in the best possible way, you cannot just rely on ecologists. You need to bring in some of these social researchers, or anthropologists, who can communicate really well and help build that confidence for women to participate.
There are also some traditional practices that women use that are really helpful for reforestation. In one project here in Maputo, the women shared that they only collected crabs during the neap tides. In the spring tides they go fishing instead. So you can use that to bring issues of sustainability in, in terms of leaving populations to rest and not harvesting the same thing every day.
I think women are already there in the restoration work, but there’s a great potential to have more success by engaging with them even further.”
4. Come together
“Stakeholder forums are a really useful way for communities and politicians to connect and to manage restoration together. We still don’t do a lot of this in Africa, but I think we could explore some ways to do it more.
For example, here in Mozambique, we have this disaster department which becomes a giant ministry for a very short time during the wet season when there is a lot of flooding, and they do rescue plans for people in the area.
They may not be aware, though, of the role that mangroves play in protecting the coastal area. And if they were, maybe we could do some co-funding with them for reforestation. Of course, it’s not easy to be in a forum with everyone together. But we all have a stake when it comes to mangrove management and the way forward.”
To hear more from Salomão Bandeira and other mangrove experts from across the African continent, tune in to the African Blue Carbon Forum at the GLF at 9 am Nairobi time (GMT+3) on Wed. Aug. 29.