Green Coast: for nature and people after the tsunami


On 26 December 2004, a devastating tsunami hit the coasts of South and South East Asia, causing the deaths of over 200,000 people and enormous environmental damage. 

Poor people suffered the most from the tsunami as their fragile homes, built along the coasts, were washed away. Many of them also are heavily dependent on coastal nature for their livelihoods and for their safety. Mangroves, coral reefs and other coastal ecosystems provide a range of benefits and resources that support livelihoods like: fishing, agriculture, fuel, fresh water, medicines.

Coastal nature also forms a natural barrier, a green belt, against natural disasters like floods and cyclones. Damage assessments indicate that areas with a relatively intact, natural shoreline were in some cases less affected by the tsunami. Furthermore these marine and coastal ecosystems support a diversity of natural life, including birds, fish and sea turtles.

Urgent pleas

Soon after the tsunami, NGOs in the affected countries appealed for support in their efforts to recover damaged coastal ecosystems and to reform coastal policies. Following these urgent pleas from their local partners, four international organisations developed the project:

Green Coast: for nature and people after the tsunami.

Oxfam Novib supported the initiative and provided a budget of € 4.4 million, raised by Dutch charity funds, for Green Coast. In the history of humanitarian aid, it had not happened before that such amount of relief funds were allocated to the restoration and sustainable management of coastal nature as the basis for people’s livelihoods.

Disadvantaged groups

Even prior to the tsunami disaster disadvantaged groups like scheduled castes and tribes, landless labourers and artisans, were surviving in a strongly marginalised position. Yet in the process of post-tsunami relief these groups are at risk of being bypassed, or having their rights not acknowledged and taken from them. 

Women  

Up to four times as many women as men died in the tsunami. They were often at home, while the men were out working. Efforts to save their children slowed their flight. The reasons vary, but according to an Oxfam report, one of the common factors was that many men were out fishing or working in the fields. In India women from coastal communities traditionally waited on the beaches to unload the fish from the boats. In most of the affected countries few women could swim or climb trees.

In this respect the position of women in many communities is notably vulnerable. In many areas women have been disproportionably hit by the tsunami and its after effects, both in terms of loss of life as loss of means of existence. Moreover, existing gender related power inequalities in the coastal regions have been exacerbated by the tsunami disaster, e.g. in terms of tenure arrangements, access to resources, credit and aid.

Gender inequalities 

In some areas almost the entire female population disappeared. How are the lives of the surviving women affected by the tsunami? Assessments conducted by Green Coast partners gather more information on the differences in the position of women and men. What is their legal status, both in customary law and in formal legislation? What are their rights, who decides? Who does the work and who gets the benefits: men or women?

Green Coast goals

Key principle

A key principle of Green Coast is that local communities need to participate in all stages of coastal rehabilitation. From assessments, through to planning and on to implementation. Recovery policies and plans will particularly focus on the poor communities, who are often worst affected by the tsunami.

Green Coast especially aims to support the empowerment of women, and the participation of women in decision-making bodies at all levels. Awareness should be raised about the specific roles, rights and responsibilities of women in coastal resource management. Especially the policy work and the small grant projects can contribute to concrete improvements in their rights and economic position.

Benefit

Poor local communities will benefit most from the rehabilitation of coastal natural resources, which sustain their livelihoods. For instance alternative livelihoods could be identified for fishermen, to allow fish stocks to recover.  

Influence 

Local communities must be able to influence reconstruction conditions for their own area. The aim of the project is to equip them with knowledge and contacts, so that they can better manage their natural coastal resources for the sustainability of their livelihoods.

Why is Green Coast unique?

Green Coast aims to support the communities affected by the tsunami through the restoration of their livelihoods. As coastal ecosystems provide important services such as safety, food, income and shelter, Green Coast focuses on the restoration of these ecosystems to rehabilitate the livelihoods of these people.

Green Coast is a unique initiative in a post-disaster context, focusing on the recovery of coastal ecosystems and sustainable management of coastal nature as a basis for peoples livelihoods.

Achievements

Green Coast, the tsunami response initiative led by WI – implemented a total of 175 community-based ecosystem restoration projects –benefitting 91,000 people- in five tsunami-affected countries: Indonesia, India, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Malaysia. In the Indonesian province Aceh alone, Green Coast planted some 844,000 mangrove and beach trees in 2007 covering more than 350 hectares.

Green Coast partners WI, WWF, IUCN and Both ENDS and their local NGO and CBO networks, restored sand dunes, cleaned up sea grass beds, coral reef and beaches and restored drinking water wells and agricultural land which became saline because of the tsunami. They also provided technical and financial support to affected local communities to start income generating activities. More than 12,000 people (of which 60% women) benefitted from increased income in 2007.
The establishment of coastal forest, provides greater environmental security to the people living behind, as they function as natural buffer zones against high tide, sea level rise and storms. The recovery of coastal ecosystems significantly improved livelihoods as fish stocks have increased, water quality improved and agricultural land becomes fertile again.

Results  

The project envisages the following results:
• Rehabilitated coastal nature and resources.
• Restored and newly created livelihoods from fisheries, agriculture, fuel collection and eco-tourism.
• Strengthened natural defences and shelter to protect people and nature from future floods and cyclones.
• A sustainable use of coastal nature and resources through participation of local communities, with a strong focus on the roles and rights of women.