Addressing the sustainable use of mangrove forest ecosystems is very important to the people who rely on them for their livelihood in terms of food, health, income-generation and biodiversity conservation.
Because of the improper management of mangrove conservation surrounding communities in Moa, Mahandakini, Mpakani, Boma-subutuni and Boma-kichakamiba villages, Mkinga District faced a number of problems like random clearing of mangroves for social and economic purposes. This caused flooding. The resulting coastal erosion contributes to global warming and danger from rising sea-levels that has resulted in the occasional submerging of Kijiru Village.
This has been recognized by Envirocare who, in partnership of Foundation for Environmental Awareness (FEA) and Tanzania Coastal Environmental Conservation Network (TACOECONT) are implementing the project on Restoration of the Mangrove Ecosystem in Mkinga District, Tanga region.
The overall objective of the project is to build the local capacity to mitigate the impact of coastal and marine resource depletion through promoting sustainable management of mangroves and alternative livelihoods improvement in 5 villages in Mkinga district by 2010.
Project manager Abdalla Mkindi said, “mangroves ecosystems serve important coastal functions such as protection of coastal land against storms, provision of critical habitat for coastal biodiversity, spawning areas for coastal marine and inland aquatic terrestrial species and birds.”
He added that mangrove ecosystems “also are the source of timber and non timber products (honey, brackish water organisms), recreation, firewood, charcoal making, poles for housing, prawns, fish and shell fish, boat making, fishing gears and medicines.”
“Nearly 80% of mangrove users in Mkinga district have low levels of awareness on the importance of conserving mangrove ecosystems. This is partly due to the absence of specific environmental education programs in the target areas and low literacy levels,” Mkindi said.
In addition to this, the prevalent detrimental deep-seated cultural attitudes and practices have diminished the possibility of mangrove forest conservation, and led to indiscriminate and unsustainable harvesting of mangrove resources in the area.
The absence of alternative supplementary income-generating activities has meant an increasing dependence of communities on the mangrove forest resource, accounting for the rapid depletion of the mangrove ecosystem in Mkinga District.
While seaweed farming and honey production represent a viable alternative, these sectors are presently being affected by the low production capacity, absence of value addition, and limited access to markets.
The project focused on building the capacity of the target groups to produce quality honey in the mangrove forest and improve seaweed farming as an alternative means of reducing rampant poverty among the communities, and hence increased pressure on mangrove for their livelihoods
Envirocare, FEA and TACOECONT are calling for deliberate efforts geared towards awareness creation and pertaining to the management and protection of mangrove forest resources for the benefit of the Mkinga community and the nation at large.