From Blessing Ibunge, Port Harcourt
The mangrove ecosystem constitutes a critical support for humanity given the myriad of goods and services the ecosystem provides. Globally, mangroves help in conserving biological diversity, which include several endangered mammals, reptiles, amphibians and birds.
Mangroves serve as spawning grounds for many animal species including commercially important fish species that are critical to coastal livelihoods. They also serve as the most efficient nature-based solution to enhance climate adaptation and mitigation, food security, and human well-being. Mangroves sequester carbon, a major cause of climate change, four times greater than tropical rainforest.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2015, declared July 26, as the Mangrove Day.
In a statement to mark mangroves day, Dr Kabari Sam, Head, Environment and Conservation, CEHRD, noted that the Niger Delta region in Nigeria is Africa’s largest delta and has the fourth largest mangrove forests in the world. Nigeria’s mangrove, is the largest in Africa covering 10,515km2.
He said that it has been estimated that, at least, 60% of commercial fishes in the Gulf of Guinea breed in the mangroves of the Niger Delta.
According to him, “this implies that the Niger Delta region has a strategic role to conserve and protect mangroves for local, regional and global benefits. However, there are indications that awareness of the benefits of ecosystem goods and services is minimal resulting in unsustainable acts and behaviours that degrade the mangrove ecosystem”.
He explained that “27% of the global oil impact on mangroves occur in the Niger Delta. These practices have local and global impacts on climate change resilience.Therefore, there is an alarming need to galvanize relevant stakeholders to create awareness and initiate actions for the sustainable conservation and restoration of the mangrove system in the Niger Delta”.
While appreciable efforts had been geared toward sustainable management in some countries, Dr Sam stressed that “such efforts are infancy in Nigeria. For example, Malaysia with 6,412 km2 and Vietnam with only 1,100 km2 of mangroves have 40 and 22 mangrove protected areas (MPAs), respectively. Unfortunately, Nigeria with 10,515km2 mangroves has no MPA”
Disclosing the group achievement in preservation of mangroves, CEHRD said it has demonstrated leadership in raising awareness on the role of mangroves, having consistently led two-decade of advocacy for mangrove conservation and implemented mangrove restoration initiatives.
Some of the achievements by CEHRD includes, pioneered community-led mangrove restoration in Nigeria in 2004, and recently developed contextual user-friendly manual for mangrove planting and management, establishment and capacity building of Environment Clubs in five secondary schools in Rivers and Bayelsa States to drive mangrove restoration.
CEHRD therefore recommends that
Local communalities develop cultural norms towards mangrove conservation and restoration Immediate remediation and restoration of degraded mangrove areas in the Niger Delta.
Again, that robust policy to end artisanal oil refining (kpofire) in the Niger Delta and optimize contingency response to protecting mangroves in the event of operational oil spills.
Other calls are that “The Federal, State, Local Governments and communities should establish mangrove protected areas and community mangrove conservation areas. Create law and policies that will mainstream sustainable mangrove management in Nigeria.The local government councils to work with community leaders to develop bye-laws to protect mangroves.
“The federal, state government and local communities should develop a mangrove co-management model for effective conservation, encourage the establishment of environment clubs in all coastal schools in the Niger Delta.Develop a blueprint for the education and sensitization of coastal communities on the benefits of the mangrove ecosystem and assign substantial resources towards mangrove research, education and sustainable management.
The 2021 Mangrove Day is remarkable as it marks the beginning of the UN Decade for Ecosystem Restoration.