Increasing coastal resilience and social development opportunities: Guyana Mangrove Restoration Project (GMRP)

Full Solution
Restored black mangrove forest, West Coast Berbice, Guyana
NAREI

Recognizing the potential impact of climate change on its low-lying coastal zone, Guyana initiated a program to restore its coastal mangrove forest. This solution responds to climate change and mitigates its effects through the protection, restoration and wise use of Guyana’s mangrove ecosystems through processes that maintain their protective function, values and biodiversity while meeting the socio-economic development and environmental protection needs in estuarine and coastal areas.

Last update: 05 Jun 2023
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Context
Challenges addressed
Floods
Land and Forest degradation
Sea level rise
Storm surges
Ecosystem loss
The coastal zone is protected by hard sea defense structures, mangroves, dikes and sluices. Together with an extensive drainage, irrigation and flood control network, the sea defenses make the coast habitable and cultivatable. Over the last several decades, there has been increasing pressure on the coastal zone, this combined with the loss of protective mangrove vegetation and collapse and overtopping of existing sea defenses increase flooding. Projected sea level rise poses a major threat to the coastal area and the country’s economy. Mangrove forests that once lined the entire coastline have been significantly reduced, and in many instances, lost altogether. Recognition of the importance of the role of mangroves along the coast has been enhanced by the realization that climate change is further threatening the coastline.
Scale of implementation
National
Ecosystems
Mangrove
Theme
Adaptation
Erosion prevention
Restoration
Geodiversity and Geoconservation
Protected and conserved areas governance
Sustainable livelihoods
Local actors
Coastal and marine spatial management
Forest Management
Location
Guyana
South America
Process
Summary of the process
The success of Ecological Mangrove Restoration is greatly dependent on understanding the particular site conditions that are limiting mangrove growth. This requires an understanding of the natural and social dynamics of a particular site and community involvement, therefore, becomes an integral part of the process. Community involvement is integrated into the EMR from the planning stage through implementation and monitoring. Our community-based mangrove management and alternative livelihood programs ensure sustainable management and protection of mangroves while providing economic and social benefits to local women and men. Empowering local communities to restore, protect and manage their mangroves ensures the long-term sustainability of restoration.
Building Blocks
Community-based mangrove management
Community-based mangrove management seeks to address unsustainable human use of mangroves in Guyana by engaging with local communities living adjacent to mangrove areas and facilitating their participation in management and livelihood activities aimed at providing an alternative source of income for community members dependent on mangroves for their livelihoods. Communities were trained in alternative livelihoods such as beekeeping and provided with basic equipment to establish beekeeping in mangrove forested areas. Members were also trained in tourism and bird watching as another livelihood option as they conduct tours in the mangrove forest. Men and women are engaged at all levels of the restoration from planning to implementation and monitoring. Where seedling planting is used as an intervention and community seedling nurseries area established, families work together to collect seeds and grow health seedlings for planting. Volunteer groups, i.e. Village Mangrove Action Committees are established in restoration areas or vulnerable areas and their members trained in the importance of mangroves. These volunteers, 80% women, become the voice of the project in their villages by conducting awareness sessions in schools etc.
Enabling factors
The willingness of community members living near or adjacent to mangrove forest or a potential restoration site to participate in restoration or protection activities is critical to success. The needs and aspirations of community members must be taken into consideration and initiatives that would enable them to earn a livelihood from sustainable management of the forest should be implemented. Education on the importance of the forest as coastal protection is also critical.
Lesson learned
The participation of the local community in mangrove restoration and protection initiatives is one of the most important factors in the success and long-term sustainability of the program. Though there has been immense community participation at selected locations, one of the greatest challenges remains the commitment and participation of local communities. The Project is challenged to motivate residents at other intervention sites to participate in mangrove protection and awareness and to become involved in the monitoring of their coastal resources. The will to change old habits and action of dumping and illegal grazing still remains of great concern.
Ecological Mangrove Restoration
There are two approaches that have been used for mangrove ecosystem restoration worldwide. The artificial regeneration or planting approach that has been used extensively and the other approach that has been used more recently is the natural regeneration or the Ecological Mangrove Restoration (EMR) approach (http://www.mangroverestoration.com/pdfs/CBEMR-Infosheet-URLs.pdf). Guyana has adopted EMR principles to design and implement its mangrove restoration program. EMR principles purports five critical steps that are necessary to achieve successful mangrove restoration, the sixth step (seedling planting) is only recommended as a last option. Following the guiding principles of EMR, seedling planting was only used to increase recovery time of a site that met the necessary criteria, particularly elevation, to support mangrove restoration. At sites that did not meet restoration criteria, the project implemented sediment traps to aid accretion and planted Spartina grass to support soil consolidation.
Enabling factors
Baseline information on the proposed restoration sites must be captured to determine the suitability of the site and guide selection of the most appropriate intervention. Baseline information collected should include physical (elevation, soil conditions, etc.), biological (presence of natural recruitment) and social factors (livestock grazing, harvesting, etc.). Suitable elevation is critical to successful restoration and one of the key criteria in determining the most suitable intervention.
Lesson learned
The restoration of Guyana’s coastal mangroves is possible if planned properly with the collection of detailed baseline data on potential restoration sites. Thorough site analysis should be conducted prior to any intervention and baseline data, such as wave energy, shoreline elevation, anthropogenic activities and hydrology should be collected and analysed before any intervention is undertaken. Implementation of the EMR principles increases success rates significantly and has the potential to reduce restoration cost. Monitoring data under the GMRP indicates that when conducted on accreting sites of the right mud elevation, and soil consolidation, restoration of a protective belt of mangrove forest can be established rapidly.
Impacts

Project activities resulted in the production of over 500,000 mangrove seedlings and restoration of 142ha of coastal mangrove forest. Mangrove restoration efforts were combined with the protection and management of 30 kilometers of existing fringes from further depletion due to anthropogenic activities. GMRP worked with communities to ensure they were involved at every level of the project implementation. Women are at the forefront of this initiative, making up more that 80% percent of the community participation. Women are empowered as environmental leaders and were trained to be leaders in their communities, disseminating information about the importance of mangroves and the need to protect and restore coastal mangrove forest. Training programs focused on the various initiatives implemented by the project, such as education, tourism, entrepreneurship and mangrove management. Over 50 women were trained to cultivate mangrove seedlings in community nurseries. These 250,000 seedlings were sold for coastal planting and earned the women involved a total of USD 115,000. Through beekeeping and tourism training, women formed the Mangrove Reserve Producers Cooperative Society, which now provides training to poor coastal women interested in beekeeping. Along with providing income through honey generation, this activity helps to promote additional mangrove growth and protection.

Beneficiaries
Single parent female-headed households Poor coastal households Farmers Fishermen Students and researchers
Sustainable Development Goals
SDG 13 – Climate action
Story
NAREI
Japanese tourist on the Mangrove Heritage Trail Tour
NAREI
As Guyana continues on its development path, a key element to the sustainable management of our natural resources is to combine conservation of natural resources with livelihood opportunities for the local communities that depend on these resources. GMRP has been able to successfully combine mangrove protection and restoration with livelihood opportunities for coastal communities. The Golden Grove to Belfield Mangrove Heritage Trail Tour and Mangrove Reserve Producers Coop Society are examples of community led mangrove management. One of the Project’s initiatives was to create a tourism product which linked the rich history of five communities on Guyana’s East Coast with environmental education about the importance of coastal mangroves and the unique ecosystem it supports. Members of the five communities were trained as tour guides and now conduct tours which allow tourists to learn of mangrove conservation while enjoying the heritage of these villages (Victoria was the first village in Guyana that was bought by freed slaves), bird watching in the mangrove forest, drumming and folk singing. The Tour now facilitates over 500 visitors per year from a range of backgrounds including students, researchers and local and foreign tourists. Visitors can also purchase ‘mangrove honey’ from the members of the Mangrove Reserve Producers Coop Society. The producers, who are mainly women, were provided with technical and financial support through beekeeping training and provision of equipment as well as marketing and packaging. The Coop members are also members of the Village Mangrove Acton Committee and volunteer their time to raise awareness among villagers and schools about the importance of mangroves and the need to protect this unique forest.
Connect with contributors
Other contributors
Kene Moseley
National Agricultural Research & Extension Institute
Oudho Homenauth
National Agricultural Research & Extension Institute