Towards mangrove conservation in Guinea Bissau
Wetlands International worked in West African Guinea Bissau to restore traditional rice field (or bolanha) in mangrove areas. We enabled the building of dikes and channels to restore the hydrology for rice farming. This contributes strongly to mangrove conservation, as no new mangrove areas need to be cleared for conversion into rice fields.
Grand part of the surface of Guinea Bissau is covered by tidal areas and mangroves. Not only in Guinea Bissau, but across many countries in West Africa millions of people depend on mangroves for rice production and other economic activities such as fishing. However, climate change is having negative impacts on these areas. Rainfall and the duration of the rainy season are decreasing; fishing and rice production are down.
The type of rice cultivation practiced in mangroves – also called bolanha – has not changed over decades. It requires a very delicate water management, specialist techniques and hard work. In a changing climate the soil gets silted, salinated and acidified very quickly, rendering the rice fields unproductive. Once a rice field turns unproductive, the villagers turn to cutting down new parts of mangrove forest to turn these into new rice fields.
Wetlands International went to the villages of Cacafal and Cussana-Cussentche to raise awareness on the importance of mangroves for climate change adaptation, assessed with the local population the best techniques to improve their resilience to climatic changes and their impacts. We provided the materials for the building of dikes and other measures to restore the hydrology of these rice fields with the local population.
Through restoring the rice fields and awareness raising, no new mangrove areas are cut to create new rice fields. We also set up Mangrove Youth Defense Teams to protect the mangroves from being cut for firewood.
From local experience to national climate policy
These experiences of adaptation to climate change with local communities are shared with the national policy makers in Bissau, the capital of the country.
With this information, the government can make national policies for climate change adaptation, through which our approaches can be multiplied and replicated in many other mangrove areas. Furthermore, the practices will also be shared with other African countries with similar conditions and facing similar threats.
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Joazinho Sa. Head of the Guinea Bissau Office.