Environmental Funding For Guyana Must Cater for Mangroves Too

An aerial view of a mangrove forest along the Guyana coast.
Approximately 90 per cent of Guyana’s population lives on a
narrow coastline strip a half to one metre below sea level.
Courtesy: Ministry of the Presidency/OCC/Kojo McPherson

By Desmond Brown
GEORGETOWN, Mar 8 2019 (IPS)

For several decades, Guyana has been using mangroves to protect
its coasts against natural hazards, and the country believes its
mangrove forests should be included in programmes like the REDD+ of
United Nations, in order to access financing to continue their
restoration and maintenance, as they complement miles of seawalls
that help to prevent flooding.

In recent years, the seawall barriers, which have existed since
the Dutch occupation of Guyana, have been breeched by severe
storms. This resulted in significant flooding, a danger which
scientists predict could become more frequent with climate
change.

The seawalls must also be maintained, and this is at an enormous
cost for Guyana which has been spending an average of 14 million
dollars a year to maintain and strengthen the defences.

Joseph Harmon, Minister of State in the Ministry of the
President of Guyana, said given the importance of mangroves, they
should factor more in discussions about financing to help countries
build resilience to natural hazards and climate related risks.

“While we look at climate change, while we look at sustainable
livelihoods, we have a forest that is so inaccessible, but the
areas that are accessible are also threatened,” Harmon told
IPS.

“The fact that we’re on a low coastal plain, the issues of
environment and environmental funding must cater for mangroves as
well.”

Approximately 90 percent of Guyana’s population lives on a
narrow coastline strip a half to one metre below sea level, and
Harmon said almost 80 percent of the country’s productive means
are on the coast as well.

“We’ve actually started, several years ago, with the
establishment of mangroves as a form of defence from rising sea
levels,” he said.

“We would want to posit that in the way in which forest
coverage calculations are done, that mangrove protection, which
protects the persons on the coast, that must also be a feature of
your forest coverage because it does the same thing as the forest
in the hinterland.”

According to the Nature
Conservancy
and Wetlands
International
, mangroves don’t always provide a stand-alone
solution, and may need to be combined with other risk reduction
measures to achieve high levels of protection.

As is the case with Guyana, appropriately integrated mangroves
can contribute to risk reduction in almost every coastal setting,
ranging from rural to urban and from natural to heavily degraded
landscapes.

The benefits offered by mangrove forests include timber and fuel
production, productive fishing grounds, carbon storage, enhances
tourism and recreation as well as water purification.

Janelle Christian, the Head of the Office of Climate Change in
Guyana, said the mangrove forests provide livelihood opportunities
for residents of many coastal communities.

“There are a lot of coastal community women’s groups
involved in beekeeping and honey production,” Christian told
IPS.

“Along where many of the mangrove forests are located you also
have fishing communities. So, for us, it is important both as a
form of natural protection and also because of the livelihood
opportunities tied to that.”

Mangrove trees grow along the bank of the Demerara River which
rises in the central rainforests and flows to the north for 346
kilometres until it reaches the Atlantic Ocean. Credit: Desmond
Brown/IPS

In 1990, the total area of mangrove forest in Guyana was
estimated at 91,000 hectares, according to a country report to the
United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. By 2009, this
figure stood at 22,632 hectares, notes the same report.

But the country has been on an intensive campaign to protect and
restore its coastal mangroves. Christian said in 2010, Guyana
started a mangrove restoration project funded by a partnership
between the Government of Guyana and the European Union.

The project’s overall objective was to respond to climate
change and to mitigate its effects through the protection,
rehabilitation and wise use of mangrove ecosystems through
processes that maintain their function, values and biodiversity,
while meeting the socio-economic development and environmental
protection needs in estuarine and coastal areas.

More than 141 hectares of mangrove forest has been restored
along Guyana’s coastline since rehabilitation efforts began. The
country has about 80,000 hectares in place and continues to
accelerate the growth of mangroves, many of which were lost 30
years ago.

“Going along the coast you will see mangrove regrowth in
several areas where they were diminished,” Christian said,
pointing to the success of the project.

“It’s an important natural mechanism against floods. It also
helps in terms of land reclamation because over time the roots of
the mangrove allow for sedimentation and so there’s a build-up of
land.”

The restoration project also provides employment for
residents.

At the various restoration sites, local women – often single
mothers – were paid 50 cents for each 14-inch mangrove seedling
they grow. It also provided temporary employment opportunities for
seedling planters and site monitors.

“So, there are livelihood opportunities that are tied to
mangrove-type forests,” Christian said.

Other traditional applications include using the bark of red
mangrove trees for tanning leather. It sells for approximately 100
dollars per pound. The leaves of black mangrove trees are used by
locals in cooking.

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Environmental Funding For Guyana Must Cater for Mangroves Too

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Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
Environmental Funding For Guyana Must Cater for Mangroves Too