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mangrove restoration
Area of cut and destroyed mangroves, left, and newly replanted area, right

With Ali Said, fisheries scientist and Pemba Foundation volunteer (profiled on the fisheries conservation project page) we have launched a program of mangrove restoration for Pemba's coast.

Mangroves are a vital part of coastal ecology:  they provide shelter and nursery areas for many marine species; they filter the water; and they stabilise coastlines by providing a buffer against wave action.  But they are also a convenient source of wood for house and boat building, charcoal, and seaweed farming stakes.  In Pemba, as in much of the tropics, people cut the mangroves without realising that they may be damaging their fish catch offshore, or opening up their shoreline to erosion.

Mangrove restoration is remarkably simple but labour-intensive -- you gather up the seedlings that sprout all the time in healthy areas, then plant them out one by one in cut areas.

Our first restoration project involved six coastal villages in north Pemba, in an area where there's been heavy cutting of mangroves.  This project was funded through a successful e-mail appeal at the end of 2014, and completed by the end of April 2015.  Volunteers from the villages did all the hard work -- lots of it, around 3000 person-days between seedling gathering and planting out.  180 volunteers were split into 6 groups, each of which received half a day of training from Ali Said, including discussion on the ecological value of mangroves.   The Pemba Foundation co-ordinated the project and covered basic expenses -- hiring the meeting halls, bus fares, and refreshments for the volunteers.

Over the course of 2 months and using about 300,000 seedlings, the volunteers were able to re-plant about 5 hectares (12 acres) of mangrove areas that had previously been destroyed.

Every year 1-2% of Pemba's 30,000 acres of mangrove forest is lost, so we'll be doing as much mangrove replanting as we can find funds for.

POSTSCRIPT: In 2017, about 2-1/2 years after the re-planting was completed, we re-visited the areas to check on their progress. It was a disappointment (see pictures below): no more than about 30% of the seedlings had survived; some had clearly never taken root, others had grown well for 2 years, and then died. Mangrove restoration is not simple: there are 11 species, each needing their own conditions. We hope that the research that Genelle Watkins, from the University of Hawaii, is doing will help us be more effective in future.