World Wetlands day: discovering mangroves in Guinea, Guinea-Bissau and Senegal

Article du 26 February 2021

On the occasion of World Wetlands Day, on 2 February, the Collective 5 Deltas (5∆) carried out various activities around the sustainable management of the mangrove ecosystem. In the three countries of the project, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau and the Casamance region in southern Senegal, members of the Collective carried out discovery and awareness-raising activities with local communities to protect these precious wetlands. In Guinea Bissau, an educational trip to the Cacheu National Park was organised by the NGO GRDR to introduce the mangrove to the pupils and teachers of the high school in the coastal town. This was an opportunity for the students to learn more about the natural and anthropogenic causes of mangrove degradation and the management and preservation methods applied locally. In Senegal, the NGO United Purpose (UP) organised a visit for primary school pupils to the Kalissaye ornithological park, where endangered species of turtles and birds live in the mangrove. The children and their teachers took part in the clean-up of the site and discovered in a playful way what the environment of the wetland offers. In Guinea, the NGO Eclosio mobilised communities living near urban mangrove areas in Conakry around a film debate on the challenges of preserving the ecosystem and improving their living conditions. By involving actors directly concerned by the disappearance of mangroves, the World Wetlands Celebration Day generated real interest in the three countries. The stakeholders present reaffirmed their commitment to preserve local wetlands and mangroves.


In Guinea Bissau, a guided tour of the mangrove and discovery of the importance of the ecosystem on a socio-economic, ecological and cultural level. Credit: Collective 5∆


Mangrove trees grow along the coastline at the mouths of rivers. The mangrove ecosystem is therefore halfway between land and sea. Particularly useful for the resilience of communities in the face of climate change, this unique ecosystem provides multiple services to coastal populations: as a food source, the mangrove is home to a large majority of tropical fish eggs, it is also a natural barrier against waves, tsunamis and winds, it limits coastal erosion and soil salinisation – particularly of agricultural land along the coast -, sequesters carbon and filters water polluted by nearby roads and cities. Exploited for its wood, fish, oysters, salt and for growing rice, the mangrove is also essential to the livelihoods of the people living along its banks.


For Abdoulaye Soumah, a wise man from the Faban district in Conakry, “the Faban mangrove is a treasure for us, it must be protected at all costs. But he adds: “I hate to see the state of this mangrove forest that I knew as a teenager. “. In the region, mangroves are also one of the ecosystems most threatened by climate change and human action. More than 35% of mangroves have disappeared in the last 20 years. As a result of rising water levels, increased temperatures generating evaporation and changes in rainfall, the water in the estuaries in which the mangroves grow is becoming progressively saltier, negatively impacting the mangrove ecosystem and the biodiversity it supports. Moreover, because mangroves are very rich in resources, they are particularly exploited by humans. Population growth and urbanisation are also factors in the shrinking of the coastal strip, with constructions encroaching on the mangrove.


Illegal construction and logging along the riverbanks in the Faban district of Conakry threaten the survival of the mangrove ecosystem. Credit: Collective 5∆


Funded by the European Union, the Mangrove Forest Management Project from Senegal to Benin (PGFM) aims to achieve integrated protection of mangrove territories in West Africa. Collective 5∆ implements the project activities in three countries: along the coastline in Guinea Bissau, in the Republic of Guinea and in the Casamance region in southern Senegal.


In these three regions, the collective is working to protect mangrove ecosystems and the communities that depend on them, and to make them more resilient to climate change. The project has three main components. Firstly, it supports the management of protected areas, through monitoring, reforestation and awareness-raising activities for local populations in areas where biodiversity is particularly rich. In addition, the members of the collective are working on the governance of these threatened areas with all the stakeholders in the three countries. Straddling several countries, the project allows for the establishment of coordination and transnational consultation between protected area managers, communities and governments. Finally, the project aims to strengthen the financial capacities and resilience of local communities to climate change. By supporting them in developing income-generating activities, Collective 5∆ is working to reduce the pressure on mangroves and to exploit the resources they contain in a more sustainable way. The preservation of the biodiversity of these wetlands depends particularly on the participation of the communities that make their livelihoods there. For Cyrielle De Souza, the project coordinator at Kinomé, it is essential to “bring the protection of mangroves closer to the reality of the people who live there”. Solutions for impact-neutral mangrove exploitation already exist. Often it is the people themselves who come up with them,” she explains. For example, by cultivating oysters in garlands, women oyster farmers are no longer obliged to cut the branches of mangrove trees to collect them.


In Casamance, Senegal, children from a primary school visited the Kalissaye bird park where the mangrove is home to endangered species of turtles. Credit: Collective 5∆


Created in 2014, the Collective 5∆ brings together local associations, international organisations and the social enterprise Kinomé. It was born with the objective of pooling, on a regional scale, efforts and knowledge for the preservation and sustainable development of mangroves in West Africa. It promotes the sharing and dissemination of tools and good practices for the management of mangrove ecosystems. Together, the members of the collective carry out joint projects along Senegal, Saloum, Gambia, Casamance and Rio Cacheu rivers. The collective acts as a link between local, regional and international levels. As the sole interlocutor of international donors, such as the European Union in the framework of this project, it is also driven by the issues and dynamics on the ground. It also aims to support and coordinate government action for sustainable governance of protected areas at the regional level.


The Mangrove Forest Management project from Senegal to Benin is led by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), in association with Wetlands International and the Collective 5 deltas. It is funded by the European Union.

The Collective 5 Deltas works along the coastlines of Guinea Bissau, the Republic of Guinea and the Casamance region of southern Senegal. Credit: Kinomé