Restoring Ghana’s Mangroves and Depleted Fish Stock

A fish catch has come in. Since the community from the Sanwoma
fishing village have begun restoring the mangroves, the lagoon has
seen a marginal increase in fish stock. However, the stock in the
ocean remains depleted. Credit: Albert Oppong-Ansah/IP

By Albert Oppong-Ansah
ACCRA, Dec 20 2018 (IPS)

It was just three and a half years ago that the Sanwoma fishing
village, which sits between the sea and the mouth of the Ankobra
River on the west coast of Ghana, experienced perpetual flooding
that resulted in a loss of property and life.

This was because the local mangrove forests that play a key role
in combating the effects of coastal erosion and rising sea levels
had been wantonly and indiscriminately harvested. “Of a total
118-hectares mangrove, we had depleted 115 hectares,” Paul Nato
Codjoe, a fisherman and a resident of the community explains.

The fisherfolk here depended heavily on the Ankobra wetland
mangroves for cheap and available sources of fuel for fish
processing. Wood from the mangroves was also used as material for
construction, and sold to generate income.

But a video shown by officials of Hen Mpoano (HM), a local
non-governmental organisation, helped the community understand the
direct impact of their indiscriminate felling.

And it spurred the fishfolk into action. Led by Odikro Nkrumah,
Chief of the Sanwoma, the community commenced a mangrove
restoration plan, planting about 45,000 seeds over the last three
years.

Rosemary Ackah, 38, one of the women leaders in the community,
tells IPS that the vulnerability to the high tides and the
resultant impact was one of the reasons for actively participating
in the re-planting.

HM, with support from the United States Agency for International
Development-Ghana Sustainable Fisheries Management Project
(SFMP),provided periodic community education about the direct and
indirect benefits of the mangrove forests.

In Ghana, there are about 90 lagoons and 10 estuaries with their
associated marshes and mangrove swamps along the 550-km coastline
stretch.

Dr Isaac Okyere, a lecturer at the Department of Fisheries and
Aquatic Sciences, University of Cape Coast, explains to IPS in an
interview that the conservation of mangrove forests is essential
for countries like Ghana, where the marine fishery is near
collapse, with landings of important fish species at 14 percent of
the record high of 140,000 metric tons 20 years ago.

The fisheries sector in Ghana supports the livelihoods of 2.2
million people — about 10 percent of the population.

Carl Fiati, Director of Natural Resource at the Environmental
Protection Agency speaking in an interview with IPS, explains:
“Ghana is in a precarious situation where many of the stocks are
near collapse and species like the sardine and jack mackerel cannot
be found again if we do not take steps to conserve, restock and
protect them. A visit to the market shows that sardines, for
instance, are no more.”

The Sanwoma community is not unique in the degradation of their
mangroves. According to Okyere, the Butuah and Essei lagoons of
Sekondi-Takoradi, the Fosu lagoon of Cape Coast, the Korle and
Sakumo lagoons of Accra and the Chemu lagoon of Tema are typical
examples of degraded major lagoons in the country.

“Most of the lagoons, especially those located in urban areas,
have been heavily polluted within the last decade or two.”
Domestic and industrial effluent discharge, sewage, plastics, and
other solid waste and heavy metal contaminants (lead, mercury,
arsenic, etc.) from industrial activities are blamed for this.

Rosemary Ackah is part of the women’s group that was assigned
to collect seedlings used to grown a nursery of mangrove trees.
Credit: Albert Oppong-Ansah/IPS

According to Ackah, many of the women in the community also
became involved in the mangrove regeneration because of the
positive resultant effect of clean air that would reduce airborne
diseases in the community.

“As women, we take care of our husbands and children when they
are ill so we thought we should seize this opportunity to engage in
this as health insurance for our families,” she added.

Ackah says the women’s group was assigned to collect seedlings
used to grown a nursery. They also watered the seedlings.

“We also played a significant role during transplanting. When
our husbands dig the ground we put in the seedlings and cover the
side with sand. It is a joy to be part of such a great replanting
project, that will help provide more fuelwood for our domestic
use,” Ackah told IPS.

Codjoe says that thanks to the technical assistance from the
project, the community developed an action plan for restoration and
is also enforcing local laws to prevent excessive mangrove
harvesting.

The community has taken control of its future, and particularly
its natural resources, and has established the Ankobra Mangrove
Restoration Committee to guide and oversee how the mangrove is used
and maintained.

To ensure that the re-planting is sustainable, Codjoe explains
that the community has, in agreement, instituted a by-law that all
trees within 50 meters of the river must not be harvested. Anyone
doing so will have to replant them.

It is uncertain if indiscriminate felling of the mangroves
continues to happen as many in the community acknowledge the
positive results of the re-planting.

“We have seen positive signs because of the re-generation, the
flooding has been drastically reduced,” says Ackah.

She has witnessed another direct improvement: the high volume
and large size of the shrimp, one of the delicacies in Ghana, that
they local community harvests. “This has really boosted our local
business and improved our diet,” she says.

Codjoe says the fish stock in the river increased and agreed
that a high volume of shrimp was harvested.

Ackah adds that the project donors SFMP and local implementer HM
also helped them reduce dependence on the mangroves for their
livelihoods and created a resilience plan in the form of a Village
Savings and Loan Scheme.

The scheme, she explains, has financially empowered members to
address social and economic challenges they face, thus reducing
dependence on fisheries and mangroves in terms of the need for
income.

In West Africa, the economic value of nature’s contributions
to people per km2 per year is valued at 4,500 dollars for mangrove
coastal protection services, 40,000 dollars for water purification
services, and 2,800 dollars for coastal carbon sequestration
services.

This is according to an Assessment Report on the state of
biodiversity in Africa, and on global land degradation and
restoration, conducted under the Intergovernmental Platform on
Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

Fiati says that Ghana’s new draft Coastal and Marine Habitat
Regulation policy, which encapsulates the protection, management
and sustainable use of mangroves, will be ready and sent to the
Attorney General’s Department this month to be signed into
law.

And the local fisherfolk of Sanwoma are assisting in sharing
their experiences and knowledge.

In the meantime, the Sanwoma are ensuring that the importance of
the preservation of their mangrove forests is passed down to young
people.

“Because of a lack of knowledge about the importance of such a
rich resource we were destroying it. And it was at a fast rate. Now
I know we have a treasure. As a leader, I will use it to
sustainably and protect it for the next generation. Also, I will
make sure I educate children about such a resource so they will
keep it safe,” Nkrumah told IPS.

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Restoring Ghana’s Mangroves and Depleted Fish Stock
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Restoring Ghana’s Mangroves and Depleted Fish Stock