“The Earth is our travel companion”
It’s the International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem, and planting is in full swing at our project sites in Senegal. With local partner Oceanium, we’re replanting over 7000 hectares of mangroves in the first three-year phase and eventually 16,000 hectares in what’s hoped to become the largest carbon-certified mangrove project in the world. Check out our new Senegal project video!
One rice farmer from the region, Yaya Diatta, told us about how the landscape has changed since his father worked here in the 1950s. “The decrease in rainfall throughout the 1970s made the rice paddies saltier,” he says. “Eventually my father had to give up his livelihood.”
Oceanium started to restore the mangroves in Senegal in 2009, involving over 50,000 local households in the planting activities. Yaya relates how the community started to see the natural landscape return. “First, we saw an increase in fish. We used to have to travel for miles to go fishing, but now the mangroves provide shelter for the fish to thrive. Next, there were more shellfish, which provides seasonal work for the women here.”
In fact, Oceanium’s restoration resulted in €5.68 million of fish, shellfish and oysters and €64,000 of extra rice being produced in 2018, as well as improved diets for almost all the households here. “Planting mangroves around dykes holds in the soil and protects against the advance of salt water, protecting thousands of hectares of rice paddies,” Yaya explains. “We've seen that the paddies closest to the mangroves perform better, because the salinity is lower, and perhaps because the falling leaves enrich the soil, too. But we’re not scientists - we’re just observers.”
A scientist he may not be, but Yaya is certainly a philosopher. “So many people are needed to restore one hectare of mangroves - but one man can destroy that much in a day,” he observes. “Without these trees, we can’t feed ourselves.”
He concludes: “The Earth is our travel companion. As long as the Earth lives, man can live. If I could say one thing to human beings, it’s this: respect the natural balance. Let’s help nature, and nature will help us.”