In Maldives, we are blessed with ecologically rich ecosystems such as vibrant coral reefs, sandy coastal zones, mangroves and wetlands. Among these, mangrove and wetland ecosystems are intertwined in many ways with the livelihood and well-being of local communities. The science is clear. Wetlands are the most effective carbon sinks on our planet. In Maldives, the carbon sequestration potential of wetlands may not be as significant due to extremely small size of these ecosystems but these in-land ecosystems offer a cost-effective strategy for climate change adaptation through their function in flood control, soil erosion control, groundwater recharge, biodiversity conservation, and livelihood support. The benefits are clear. They are critical for climate adaptation and building resilience.
As Maldives is geographically scattered, it takes a lot of resources to manage and monitor protected areas and important ecosystems such as mangroves centrally. And the best management of island ecosystem should come from the communities themselves and increasing community participation in conservation is part of the new decentralization act. We witnessed the success story of first established wetland nature parks, during the covid-19 lockdown, when communities belonging to islands with presence of wetlands-initiated community-based wetland management and establishing their own wetland nature parks. What is required is more ambition to urgently amplify such initiatives and apply economic and financial incentives for the communities to use wetlands wisely. This is a complex and continually evolving task that requires skill, dedication and resources to carry out effectively.
Hence, this project aims to establish a community-based mangrove management system in two islands of Maldives, HA.Thakandhoo and Sh. Feydhoo.
Restoration of the two Mangrove ecosystem requires behavioural change through community empowerment and awareness in these two islands. A 1-year pilot project with this approach is envisioned with some restoration field activities such as removal of accumulated silt in one of the mangrove areas.
This project would consist of 6 parallel, interconnected initiatives:
1. Develop an island level mangrove awareness program for both community, students and visitors
2. Establishing a mangrove nursery in Sh. Feydhoo (to distribute burugueira cylindrica seedlings to mangrove die-off islands in North of Maldives),
3. Development of a mangrove tour guide certification level module and rolling out of the Tour guide certification training among registered wetland rangers, park wardens and tour guide selected from islands that already have an established mangrove/wetland park,
4. Clean up the mangrove areas in both islands with local community and volunteers and Involving the school community in hands on wetlands clean ups and solutions workshops on World Wetlands Day as a Wetlands Festival
5. Removal of excessive sediments in HA. Thakandhoo mangrove waterbody and improve hydraulic connectivity.
6. Livelihood training programme and market linkages established for informal women workers (women who are not registered and who earn from resource extraction from mangrove, and
7. Introduction of eco-tourism concepts such as recreational boating and boardwalks for economic incentive for local communities in both islands.
All these are scalable inputs which could be replicated in other islands depending on the success of this pilot project