Senior lecturer at the Department of Marine and Fishery Sciences at the University of Ghana, Dr. Edem Mahu has cautioned local communities not to prioritize immediate economic gains over the sustainability of mangroves upon which they depend.
She made this caution at a district-level and community stakeholder workshop of the MANCOGA Project. The workshop, held on 10th August, 2023, brought together researchers from the University of Ghana and the Hereon Institute in Germany, government agencies, traditional leaders, civil society, representatives of local communities and mangrove dependents.
Dr. Mahu noted that there had been an intense deforestation of mangroves in the Anyanui area and this had implications for fisheries sector and the entire ecosystem in the area.
She acknowledged economic forces as contributors to rapid decline in mangrove populations in the Anyanui area. She however enunciated that people also need to understand that they can actually make better livelihoods from mangroves without cutting them.
“I know that economic issues are driving the mangrove deforestation. If we do not give people alternatives we will continue to experience the decline in mangroves. However, we need to explore other opportunities from using mangroves.”
She encouraged the representatives of mangrove owners and harvesters to take steps to restore the depleted mangrove vegetation.
Mangrove wood is harvested mainly for fuel and for construction. Despite the government of Ghana’s initiative to increase access to LPG, mangroves continue to be a very important source of wood fuel for many coastal communities, especially for fish smoking as it is believed to improve the quality of smoked fish.
At the same event, Torgbui Kumassah of the Keta Traditional Council exhorted the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to live up to their mandate of protecting the environment through enforcement rather than inspection and endorsement. He also encouraged the local communities to diversify their livelihoods away from primitive primary practices that are detrimental to the natural environment.
A representative of the local communities highlighted the dependence on mangroves created by limited economic opportunities in their communities, compounded by the effects of a blocked estuary downstream as well as impacts of climate change on their livelihoods.
He pointed out that local communities have been lamenting on how fragile their ecosystem was. There were also remarks on small changes in the physical environment which disrupts their livelihoods entirely, hence their resort to mangrove harvesting and selling.
On his part, Dr. Yaw Atiglo, a social scientist, highlighted the need to acknowledge the trade-offs between the lived realities of the local communities whose livelihoods depend on mangrove woods. He also spoke on the need to conserve and restore mangroves for ecological uses as well as livelihood sustainability. He reiterated the need for local communities to explore alternative uses for mangroves and sustainable livelihood options.