We have unified with the NGO Honko to oversee mangrove conservation in the Bay of Ranobe
Mangroves are ecologically and economically important intertidal coastal forests. They are considered one of the most productive and biologically complex ecosystems on Earth. Mangrove forests act as important nursery and feeding habitats for a wide range of organisms such as reef fish, shellfish, birds, turtles, and even dugongs. Their intricate root system provides much needed shelter for fish and invertebrates. Approximately 75% of commercially caught fish are associated with these coastal forests. Mangroves stabilise coastlines and protect against erosion. They also trap sediments and pollutants, preventing them from flowing out to sea. The loss of this function would have detrimental impacts on seagrass and coral reef ecosystems.
What’s more, mangroves effectively remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, storing it for millennia in their rich soils. The storing of this ‘Blue Carbon’ from the atmosphere plays an essential role in reducing impacts of global climate change. However, the degradation or destruction of mangroves leads to the emission of the carbon they have stored for centuries into the atmosphere and oceans, turning these ecosystems into sources of greenhouse gases. Therefore, the protection and restoration of blue carbon ecosystems such as mangroves and seagrass forms an essential component of the solution to global climate change.
Unfortunately, mangroves in Southwest Madagascar are under threat from over-exploitation. Increased demand for charcoal production and building materials, and over-fishing has resulted in widespread habitat degradation and fragmentation. In addition to the loss of an ecologically important habitat, this also has worrying ecological and socio-economic implications since coastal communities are dependent on these forests for their livelihoods and food security.
In 2007, two ex-Reef Doctor scientists established Honko Mangrove Conservation & Education (Honko), a Belgian registered non-profit organisation. Since then, Honko (translating as ‘mangrove’ in Malagasy) has been working in partnership with the coastal communities to develop sustainable methods of preserving and managing mangroves in the Bay of Ranobe. Their goal is to empower the local people with a sense of responsibility towards their environment and allow them take charge of managing their mangrove resources. Honko also strives to build community resilience in the face of a changing natural environment through the introduction of a variety of alternative livelihoods. Since their inception, we have enjoyed a close working partnership with Honko. We have assisted them in mass mangrove replantation events, participated in volunteer exchanges, and shared social development and education initiatives such as our Juniors programme.
In January 2017, we became the managing body of Honko to form the “Reef Doctor Honko Project”
We are now responsible for overseeing in-country operations and staff. The unification of Reef Doctor and Honko signals an important milestone in mangrove conservation in southwest Madagascar. Together we are committed to reversing the degradation and preventing further loss of mangrove forest ecosystems in the Bay of Ranobe. We will continue to empower the community in mangrove management to create a sustainable future.