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Ghana: Communities rehabilitate mangroves to protect fish and rivers

It’s a cloudy morning, but the sun is peeking through the moving clouds. In a colourful Ghanaian shirt, Richard Abebu is walking through a large piece of swampy land dotted with rivers where community members are planting mangrove seedlings to protect the riverbanks and fish.

Mr. Abebu is proudly inspecting sprouting mangrove seedlings which he planted together with fishers, fishmongers, and farmers who benefit from mangrove trees. 

He says: “As a fisherman, I understand the importance of planting new mangroves to replace the old and cut ones. Mangroves serve as a habitat and breeding home for fish.”  

Mr. Abebu is a farmer and fisher from Agbledomi community in the Volta region of Ghana. Members of his community are planting mangrove seedlings with support from a project called Strengthen Participation in Mangrove Conservation, or SPMC, that helps communities along the coast and rivers to replant and rehabilitate mangroves. 

To protect the mangroves, community members formed a resource management area group that oversees mangrove management. 

Mr. Abebu is the leader of his community resource group. He explains, “I organize meetings and lead all activities on mangroves, including engagement with the SPMC project.”

He adds: “I am an experienced mangrove restoration expert because I learned a lot from stakeholders who come to our area to create awareness on the importance of mangrove restoration.”

Mr. Abebu says that community members are now aware that it is their responsibility to practice sustainable harvesting of mangroves to conserve the river ecosystem, and that planting new mangroves give small fish a safe place to grow.

Replanting and rehabilitating mangroves has helped Mr. Abebu immensely, both as a farmer and a fisher. He explains, “Mangroves help to filter [and clean] the water we use for farming. The mangrove trees also stop water from flooding our farms.”

Mr. Abebu grows tomatoes and other crops in his garden. He also catches crabs, which he sells when his crops are not ready for harvest. The crabs grow and feed in the mangrove system, so are dependent on the good health of the mangrove ecosystem. 

Ahianyo Gabriel is fisher and a member of the community resource management area group in Agbledomi community. Mr. Gabriel says: “When the fish grow in the mangrove areas, they find their way back to the rivers and the lagoons [where] we catch big sizes of fish which we sell for income to support our families.”

Clemence Kugbey is a director and administrator at the Development Institute. He says it’s important that community members are involved in restoring mangroves to ensure fishers’ livelihoods and preserve the environment. 

Mr. Kugbey says: “Through the SPMC project, I am confident that we have made a positive impact by building the capacity of the people in different communities to understand the need for replanting and rehabilitating mangroves.”

Fishmongers also benefit a lot from mangroves. Aho Adugba sells fish locally. Ms. Adugba says that mangrove trees are important because they provide fuelwood for cooking and smoking fish. 

She adds, “Mangrove fuelwood makes my fish to taste and smell good. It is a healthy source of fuelwood for my business.”

Her main worry was the rampant cutting down of mangroves without replanting. She explains, “People were destroying mangrove trees, but the coming in of the SPMC project has improved the situation.” 

 She says it’s important to plant new mangrove seedlings on the banks of the river. She adds: “If we don’t plant new mangroves to restore them, we will lose our livelihoods because mangroves serve as a home for many fishes, crabs, and other animals that live in water.”

Mr. Kugbey says it’s vital that communities own the restoration of mangroves so that their efforts are sustained after the project ends. He explains: “When the community people own the activities of restoring mangroves, it ensures continuity. The people will continue to restore mangroves to protect their rivers, lagoons, and farmlands.”

Mr. Kugbey adds, “The long-term benefit of restoring mangroves is a winning approach against the negative effects of climate change on the environment.”

Mr. Abebu says that the members of his community are committed to ensuring that the riverbanks are protected because they have seen the benefits of replanting and rehabilitating mangroves. 

He adds, “We will continue to restore the mangroves even if the SPMC project ends.”