Mangrove forests are one of the most productive and biodiverse wetlands on earth. Yet, these unique coastal tropical forests are among the most threatened habitats in the world. They may be disappearing more quickly than inland tropical rainforests, and so far, with little public notice. Growing in the intertidal areas and estuary mouths between land and sea, mangroves provide critical habitat for a diverse marine and terrestial flora and fauna. Healthy mangrove forests are key to a healthy marine ecology.|
However, in many areas of the world, mangrove deforestation is contributing to fisheries declines, degradation of clean water supplies, salinization of coastal soils, erosion, and land subsidence, as well as the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. In fact, mangrove forests fix more carbon dioxide per unit area than phytoplankton in tropical oceans.
Mangrove forests once covered 3/4 of the coastlines of tropical and sub-tropical countries. Today, less than 50% remain, and of this remaining forest, over 50% is degraded and not in good form. There needs be greater protection of primary or high quality mangrove sites knowing that the total remaining area will continue to decrease. Also, effective and ongoing restoration of degraded mangrove areas is imperative at this time if we are to restore the health of our planet's coastal regions to some level of former productivity and bio-diversity.
Many factors contribute to mangrove forest loss, including the charcoal and timber industries, urban growth pressures, and mounting pollution problems. However, one of the most recent and significant causes of mangrove forest loss in the past decade has been the consumer demand for luxury shrimp, or "prawns", and the corresponding expansion of destructive production methods of export-oriented industrial shrimp aqua-culture. Vast tracts of mangrove forests have been cleared to make way for the establishment of coastal shrimp farm facilities. The failure of national governments to adequately regulate the shrimp industry, and the headlong rush of multilateral lending agencies to fund aqua-culture development without meeting their own stated ecological and social criteria, are other important pieces to this unfortunate puzzle.
Meanwhile, the previous destructive patterns-- both environmental and social-- continue to be repeated in "new frontier" shrimp countries of Latin America, Africa, the Caribbean & the Pacific Islands.
The great earnings of shrimp culture are short-lived, while the real costs in terms of consequent environmental ruin and social disruption are long-term and astronomical! While the immediate profits from shrimp farming may satisfy a few, vast numbers of coastal residents, once dependent on healthy coastal ecosystems for fishing and farming, are being displaced and impoverished.
MAP is dedicated to reversing the degradation of mangrove forest ecosystems worldwide. Its central tenet is to promote the rights of local coastal peoples, including fishers and farmers, in the sustainable management of coastal environs. MAP provides four essential services to grassroots associations and other proponents of mangrove conservation: 1) It coordinates a unique international NGO network and information clearinghouse on mangrove forests.; 2) It promotes public awareness of mangrove forest issues; 3) It develops technical and financial support for NGO projects; and 4) MAP helps publicize within the developed nations the basic needs and struggles of Third World coastal fishing and farming communities affected by the consumer demands of the wealthy nations. (This we do through our newsletter, bi-weekly news bulletins, action alerts, and published articles, as well as planned public forums and presentations.)
MAP's international network has grown to include over 600 NGOs and over 400 scientists and academics from 60 nations. MAP is currently expanding the effectiveness of its coalition work by solidifying ties with other major environmental and activist groups in both the Southern and Northern Hemispheres. Through its wide network, MAP is stimulating the exchange of ideas and information for mangrove forest protection and restoration. Also, MAP promotes effective regulations and enforcement to ensure sustainable shrimp aquaculture practices which include participatory coastal resource management, responsible consumer choices, and strategies for the implementation of these and other solutions.
Since its founding in1992, The Mangrove Action Project has grown steadily to become a respected member of the global environmental movement. MAP has effectively put the internet to best use in helping to establish international links and action-oriented plans. MAP has been involved in mangrove restoration projects, advocacy work and public educational events. When MAP first started, we tried to spotlight the problems affecting both the coastal ecology and local communities. To do so, we had to effectively become whistle blowers against the shrimp aquaculture industry, spotlighting the destructive expansion of this thus far unsustainable enterprise which has been responsible for thousands of hectares of mangrove loss and ruin of valuable coastal zones.
MAP has recently intensified its conservation work by beginning to address other serious problems affecting mangrove forests, such as the logging,. oil, charcoal and tourism industries, as well as other developments which threaten the mangroves and coastal communities. Our ongoing networking efforts are bearing good results in that now more than ever before a more widespread awareness exists as to the importance of mangrove forests and the seriousness of their loss. No longer is it a common held view that mangrove forests are smelly, mosquito infested wastelands. Now, more and more people are calling for effective conservation and restoration measures.
To meet this new challenge, MAP has in the last few years begun looking for viable, long-term, equitable solutions. For instance, we are supporting and initiating small-scale mangrove restoration programs worldwide. In 1996, with funding support from the Cottonwood Foundation, MAP organized a community based mangrove replanting project in Ecuador, followed in 1997 by an eco-study tour in Thailand. In 2000, MAP organized another volunteer replanting plroject in Ecuador, and in 2001 another in Malaysia and Thailand. We have also supported mangrove restoration efforts in India, the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia. Though those efforts we have supported have been small-scale--in fact tiny when compared to the huge programs supported by World Bank loans and government bureaucracies-- our efforts are unique in that they place the local community at center stage in the restoration and management process. We support the bottom up approach which we feel will make a more effective and lasting difference.
Last year, MAP released its Mangrove Educational Curriculum which has been developed in the Cayman Islands for school children from kindergarten to 9th grade levels. With funding support from Biolabs Foundation, RAMSAR, CORALINA, the Divers' Association of Bunaken National Park, and the IUCN, Wetlands Project of the Netherlands, MAP is now taking this curriculum to other parts of the world, modifying it to fit the local regions and translating it into the local languages in Honduras, Colombia, Indonesia and Sri Lanka. This will help to raise both awareness and appreciation of the mangrove ecosystem among those local youths who later must make the decisions to conserve and sustainably manage their coastal forest areas.
In 1999, working closely with the Yadfon Association in Thailand and the Small Fishers Federation of Sri Lanka, and with funding support from ICCO and the IUCN, TRP of the Netherlands, MAP helped launch what we consider our premier program--In The Hands Of The Fishers--which is a series of workshops bringing together grassroots NGOs and fisherfolk from two or three Developing nations which contain mangroves. These workshops offer an innovative format for information and skill sharing among local stakeholders, while also offering a toolkit of working alternatives to help enhance Community Based Coastal Resource Management which is truly in the Hands of the Fishers. In addition to the workshops, followup projects will be undertaken at the participating villages, and these then will serve as sites or nodes for modeling sustainable, low-intensity development alternatives.
In 2000, MAP formed a working partnership with the Small Fishers Federation of Sri Lanka to establish the MAP-South Asian Resource Center which is based in Pambala, Sri Lanka, near Colombo. This functioning resource center offers us a stage from which we can further enact solutions by joining forces with local grassroots NGOs. A second MAP-S. Asian Resource Center was opened up at Kiralakele in southern Sri Lanka with the help of a grant from Seacology Foundation.
The existing Mangrove Resource Centers based in Sri Lanka have become for MAP a very positive inspiration for the establishment of such functioning centers elsewhere. Sited in strategic locations, such centers could act as acupressure points, relieving the pressure upon the surrounding mangrove forests. SFFL's existing centers now serve as good working models from which MAP can demonstrate positive alternatives for both local NGO's and coastal communities. As a direct result of viewing these centers during past IHOF workshops, several participants are now actively pursuing the establishment of mangrove resource centers in their own nations. Network members are now actively preparing for the building of what MAP is now calling Coastal Communities Resource Centers (CCRC's).
With grants from both the Seacology Foundation and Goldman Foundation, MAP is now partnering with KELOLA in North Sulawesi, Indonesia to build a CCRC at Tiwoho --a small fishing village located in the mangrove region near the city of Manado and adjacent to Bunaken National Park.
Other CCRC's are being considered for specific locations near the Bhitara Kanika mangrove forest and wildlife reserve in Orrisa, India to help restore the mangrove coastal buffer zone against future hurrican damage, for the Sundarban region of Bangladesh, for the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, for the mangrove forest near Dakar, Senegal, and for set up along the Gulf of Fonseca in Honduras.
In 2001, MAP, with funding support from the IUCN, TRP in the Netherlands, successfully completed its 10th Anniversary 2002 Calendar Children's Art and Poetry Competition, producing a beautiful calendar filled with colorful paintings and poetry about what the mangroves mean to the participating students. Submissions of art and poetry came in from 16 nations. The original artwork and poems are now on display for five months in the Children's Museum in Seattle.
MAP now publishes two important news bulletins:
--The Late Friday News is a bi-weekly electronic news bulletin which reaches over a thousand subscribers worldwide.
--The MAP News is a hard copy of the related news which we mail out to over 2500 of our members in 60 nations.
Please check out the Mangrove Action Project's web site: www.mangroveactionproject.org This site is an excellent informational resource, with many informative articles.
Also, please become a subscribing member of MAP, and receive our quarterly newsletter. Annual membership is $35 for families, $25 for individuals, $15 for students and low income, and $100 for organizations.
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