Editorial: Loving back mangroves

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Sunday, December 15, 2013


EDUCATE the community to return mangroves to coastal areas.

In the 1980s, the World Bank-funded Central Visayas Regional Project-I (CVRP-I) undertook mangrove rehabilitation as a strategy for watershed resource management.

In Ronda, south of Cebu, the site management unit (SMU) staff organized the coastal community to plant and maintain the propagules until these could thrive as mature mangrove stands.

In organizing the community, the CVRP SMU and technical support staff learned that the fishermen and their families needed no intense persuasion to appreciate mangroves. From experience and tradition, the “bakhawan” is a multiple-use resource base that benefits not just a family or two but entire communities.

Fish feed and lay their eggs at the roots of mangroves. Not just fish but other sources of sustenance, like crustaceans and mollusks, thrive in the mangrove ecosystem. Because of these sources of food, birds are also drawn to mangroves for foraging and breeding.

A mangrove forest is not just a natural larder but also a supply store. The “bakhawan” yields timber for houses and fishing vessels, firewood, charcoal, tannins, leaf fronds for roof shingles and other items for household use or commerce.

Love and hate

If mangroves represented wealth for Ronda fishing families, they were regarded as seaside eyesores by other residents and some town officials.

The difficulty of getting the non-fishing community to accept mangroves stemmed from complaints that mangroves turned the coast into a muddy and stinking shore that turned away bathers and dampened the tourism potential of the town.

Some feared that mangrove reforestation is a strategy underhandedly used by the government to grab and take over prime coastal areas from private claimants.

This conflict of perceptions critically spelled the fate of the mangrove reforestation project of CVRP-I in Ronda and other coastal areas of Central Visayas. Recognizing the importance of education, the CVRP-I entered discussions with the Department of Education to introduce resource management into class curricula with the objective of spreading and sustaining public appreciation of the ecology, especially the role of
mangroves.

Spread the love

The critical link of community-based education must be incorporated into current efforts to plant, rehabilitate and manage mangroves.

Ten million pesos is allocated for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) “Work-for-food program” to provide relief livelihood for survivors of typhoon Yolanda and restore destroyed mangroves and coastal forests, reported Sun.Star Cebu’s Elias O. Baquero last Dec. 12.

The program covers the areas suffering the worst damage from Yolanda: Bantayan Island, Camotes Island, Medellin, Bogo City, Daanbantayan, San Remigio and other parts of northern Cebu.

Typhoon survivors are involved in the process, from seeding production to planting and mangrove protection and maintenance for the next three years or until 2016.

The DENR must apply the lessons of CVRP-I: the sustainability of mangroves does not rest alone on the people who are convinced about their usefulness; the campaign must extend to convince the apathetic and opposed in the community to appreciate and conserve mangroves.

The harsh and still fresh lessons of Yolanda should be used to contextualize that mangroves have another important use besides providing household and commercial benefits.

Coastal forests shield the community from extreme weather by “cushioning the impact of typhoon, storm surges, tidal currents and waves,” reported Sun.Star Cebu.

And if protection from catastrophe and tragedy is not convincing enough, it must be known that the dense root system of “bakhaw” traps sediments, builds land and prevents the excessive shifting of the coast.

Contrary to fears and biases, mangroves promote coastal recreation and tourism.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 16, 2013.

Opinion

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