In Cameroon, mangrove forests — made up of salt-tolerant trees and shrubs found between small streams and the sea — are in danger of becoming extinct because of the tendency of women to harvest them for smoking fish.
“Since 2009 when we got in contact with Organisation pour l’Environnement et le Développement Durable (OPED), we learnt to smoke fish using fish scales and kitchen waste, [which add] add local aroma and the result is an even better colour and taste,”says one of the beneficiaries, Wendi Eko, a fish smoker in Kribi, Cameroon. “Before then we used mangrove wood to smoke fish because we obtained a good colouration and better taste than wood from tall trees of the dryland.”
Statistics from the Ministry of Environment, Protection of Nature and Sustainable Development in Cameroon and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) indicate that Cameroon in 2014 had 195,000 hectares of mangroves on a 402 kilometre shoreline, down from 272,000 hectares in 1980.
“Constructing 465 improved fish smoking kilns with compressed soil, capable of containing heat has helped to reduce about 99 per cent mangrove destruction.”
Jonas Kemajou, OPED
Thus, OPED initiated techniques to enable women to smoke fish without destroying the now fast-disappearing mangrove, says Jonas Kemajou, OPED director. The project started in 2009 with US$24,090 funding from the UNEP, and later got 247,316 euros (about US$266,300) from the African Development Bank’s Congo Basin Forest Fund.
Kemajou touts the impact of the project: “Constructing 465 improved fish smoking kilns with compressed soil, capable of containing heat has helped to reduce about 99percent mangrove destruction.”
Thanks to the kilns and crayfish aquaculture, OPED was among 26 environmental and development organisations out of 1,234 from 121 countries who won the 2014 Equator Prize in September 2014. The UNDP awards the Equator Prize to the best environment and development initiatives around the world every two years.
Carbon-rich mangroves are high priorities in climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies throughout the world, experts say. Mangroves have the capacity to offset emissions from greenhouse gases because of their ability to store carbon for a long time.
Gordon Adjonia, a mangrove and wetlands management expert based in Mouanko, Cameroon’s Littoral region, tells SciDev.Net: “Mangroves provide high carbon storage and sequestration potential and the high value of the multiple benefits they provide make them important coastal forest ecosystems to consider including in national Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) strategies.”
Kemajou says restoring the degrading mangroves could help in the fight against climate change. Carbon-rich mangroves are high priorities in climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies throughout the world, Kemajou adds, noting that mangroves have the capacity to off-set emissions from greenhouse gases due to their ability to store carbon for a long time.
This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's Sub-Saharan Africa desk.