Seacology, a nonprofit environmental conservation organization, is helping Sri Lanka become the first nation in history to preserve and replant all of its mangrove forests.
As a result, Sri Lanka is on a path to be a model for other countries wishing to build conservation capacity and economic prosperity in communities where healthy mangroves are most critical – small fishing villages.
Seacology helps mitigate poverty in coastal communities by providing sustainable livelihoods training and microloans in exchange for leadership in community mangrove conservation cooperatives. Through these conservation cooperatives, programme participants lead their communities in mangrove propagation, reforestation, and protection.
The livelihood training and microloan programme enables beneficiaries to create or expand sustainable businesses, contributing to greater financial stability, better nutrition and health, increased economic security for families, and improved resilience against destructive storm surges.
- Over 14,500 hectares of mangrove forest have been demarcated and educational sign boards have been installed in almost 50 lagoons and estuary systems;
- In 2017, the project propagated 703,800 mangrove seedlings;
- More than 7,900 women and young people have been trained in mangrove conservation and 2,893 have received microloans to create or expand sustainable businesses and foster financial stability.
The global importance of mangroves lies in their ability to sequester large amounts of carbon for long periods of time. It was originally estimated that mangroves store three to five times more carbon per hectare than do tropical rainforests. However, more recent studies have concluded that mangroves can store up to 50 times more.
When disturbed, mangroves release a tremendous amount of carbon dioxide, hastening the advance of climate change. While mangroves only comprise 0.7% of global forest area, they may store 20 billion tonnes of carbon worldwide, which is equivalent to roughly 2.5 times current annual global greenhouse gas emissions.
Alarmingly, in the past 50 years, the world has lost half of its mangrove forests at a rate of 1% per year, due to conversion to shrimp farms, croplands, waterfront development, and deforestation for fuel wood and charcoal production. If current mangrove deforestation rates persist, nearly all unprotected mangroves could be gone within the next 100 years.