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Protecting the Mangrove Ecosystem

Plan International UK is a global children’s charity, striving to advance children’s rights and equality for girls. As an organisation that’s focused on international development and humanitarian aid, Plan International UK is increasingly dedicated to environmental and sustainability projects.

The climate crisis is set to have a huge, devastating impact on communities around the world and in emergency situations or where there is a climate-related disaster, girls are usually the worst affected. They are the last ones in the family to eat when food is scarce, more likely to be married off as children and are at greater risk of gender-based violence and trafficking when displaced.

Educating and empowering girls can help mitigate the worst impacts of climate change, whether that’s creating sustainable solutions for land workers, helping improve a family’s resilience to the impacts of climate change or increasing economic prosperity.

Plan International UK not only aims to protect the environment and support communities, but also to help reduce levels of poverty which put the rights of children under stress.

Lloyd’s is supporting this project with Plan International UK, which works with coastal communities in Kenya to restore mangroves and conserve its natural resources. Women are trained to become seaweed farmers which provides a source of income and helps reduce poverty levels, while girls and boys are empowered to play a critical role within their communities by promoting environmental stewardship.

What is Mangrove?

Degraded mangrove swamp in Kwale Country, Kenya

  • Mangrove isn’t just a type of tree, it’s also an amazing, unsung, natural resource. Mangroves capture carbon and their soil works as a carbon sink, so when mangrove is chopped down or destroyed, the resulting soil erosion emits huge amounts of carbon. In turn, this carbon release impacts the entire planet as it accelerates climate change. The amount of carbon stored by a mangrove forest is estimated to be four times greater than other tropical forests, including the Amazon rainforest.
  • Mangrove is also a natural flood defence. Areas where mangrove has been degraded are more at risk of flooding, as mangrove provides coastal communities with a natural barrier   from floods and extreme weather like hurricanes. Therefore, regenerating mangrove can help reduce the impact of severe weather conditions.
  • Mangrove is a breeding ground and nursery habitat for fish. Without mangrove, some marine animals – including sharks, turtles and some rare species of fish – are at greater risk of extinction, which would devastate the delicate, local ecosystems. Additionally, less fish means fishing communities are more likely to be pushed into poverty and in turn, may turn to cutting wood in a bid to raise income.

Gender equality

Advancing gender equality - and engaging with men, women, boys and girls - is fully embedded into every Plan International UK programme. This is particularly important in the context of this project, as in this part of Kenya, child marriage of girls is a big problem despite the practice being illegal; meaning that girls are less able to exercise their rights.

The initial findings at the start of the project revealed that within their homes, women had lower levels of involvement in household decision-making, were less likely to be working and girls were less likely to be in school. All of these factors drive poverty and hamper gender equality. In order to combat this, the project engages women and girls to ensure they also have a stake in the stewardship of land, and that they too can have the economic opportunities that will help improve their lives.

The community

Women and men replanting mangroves in the nursery in Kwale County, Kenya

Members of the community living alongside mangrove are trained and equipped to report on the progress of the regeneration, the number of trees and the return of wildlife. They are called the Community Participatory Mapping Group and have gained the recognition to apply for funding independently to continue the project and further invest in the land, through accessing grants and recognising their rights to be consulted on what happens to it. Plan International UK will step back from the project in 2024 so that these community groups can steward the land and coastline, making it sustainable for years to come.

A Community Participatory Mapping Group analyses the progress of mangrove regeneration

It’s not enough to simply regenerate the environment if this doesn’t also tackle the drivers of environmental destruction in the first place. Local (and global) pressure on fishing stocks has damaged the mangrove ecosystem, as mangrove was cut for communities to make a living when there were fewer fish in the sea. Not only does this project support the regeneration of these mangrove ecosystems, but it also resources and supports the establishment of seaweed farming as an additional, sustainable, source of income. This puts less pressure on fish returning to the area to breed and less pressure on the delicate mangrove ecosystem. Seaweed farming can also take place close to shore, and the project particularly helps female seaweed farmers to earn a new, source of income so that they can support their families. Ensuring women have a stake in the health of the sea, and a say in local decision making, makes it more likely that these coastlines are protected for generations to come.

We believe this three-pronged approach – environmental restoration, poverty reduction and gender equality - is the most sustainable way of delivering projects like this. It’s also an important principle that risk reduction, resilience and investment is experienced by all across society, with a focus on those who have enjoyed the least equality and are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change as a result.

Seaweed farmer in Kwale County, Kenya

Plan International UK
Disclaimer: This project is funded by multiple donors

26 Jul 2023