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Saving West Africa's mangroves: regional policy & local practices

In the six countries of Mauritania, Cabo Verde, Senegal, The Gambia, Guinea Chonakry and Sierra Leone we worked with governments and local communities on two strategies: 1. Bind all governments to conservation policies and action, and 2. Introduce sustainable production techniques that diminish the cutting of mangroves.

Action Description:

For three years we have worked on mangrove conservation in these six countries, also known as the PRCM region.


Mangrove Charter for West Africa

Together with partner IUCN, Wetlands International Africa organised wide consultations. These resulted in the regional Mangrove Charter for West Africa and national action plans for the conservation and sustainable management of mangrove forests in each of the six countries. 

Through the charter, national conservation policies of each country are harmonised with the other countries. The Action Plans are country-specific detailling activities to be undertaken by these same governments. These activities include large scale restoration and sustainable use work to be executed in every country.

Other West African  countries that have mangroves in common and are interested by the Charter may join later. This could facilitate large-scale restoration/conservation and wise use of this vital ecosystem resources.


Introducing sustainable practices

The mangrove forests of the six countries are being degraded due to unsustainable human economic activities. In order to make sure that these mangrove forests last for the generations to come, we introduced sustainable production techniques for these economic activities that cause all this damage.

These are the three main damaging activities, plus the sustainable practices we introduced:


1. Fish smoking

The most harmful impact on the mangrove stems from the activities of the smoked fish sector. The fish is intended for the sub-regional market, driven by traders capable of mobilising huge financial resources to operate several artisanal fishing fleets. This type of fish smoking requires large quantities of wood to achieve a longer conservation period. 

In order to diminish the cutting of mangrove trees for firewoord, we introduced more efficient fish smoking ovens.

These improved ovens need 6 (!) times less fire wood per kilo of smoked fish.      


2.Salt production

Cooked salt, which requires large quantities of mangrove wood, is a lucrative traditional activity. It is another well organized sector in the three southern countries. Despite the dissemination of the solar salt technique in Guinea and the competition of Senegalese salt, production remains significant and therefore firewood needs are still very high.

We introduced solar salt production technique which does not require any mangrove fire wood at all. Putting salt sea water on a plastic container in the direct sunlight, the water evaporates leaving behind a salt whose purity far outreaches traditional cooked salt. This makes it fit for export to Europe.


3. Oyster fishing

Oysters grwo on the roots of the mangrove trees in abundant quantities throughout West Africa's coast. Harvesting is mostly done by women, which as unsustainable practice, cut the entire root or branch to take the oysters attached to it home or to the market place.

As sustainble alternative our partners also introduced a new technique: in the same water, just in front of the mangroves, strings are hung, to which the oysters can connect and grow. When harvesting, the mangroves stay intact as the strings make it easier to take off the oysters.


Replication in the region

All these sustainable production techniques are replicated in neighbouring villages to our introudction sites, or in other parts of the six countries by other organisations, such as the national governments that implement their Action Plan (see above) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Programme (FAO).

Action Partners:

IUCN Senegal

This action is funded by the MAVA Foundation