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COVID-19 and Community Resilience

For many coastal communities already experiencing economic stressors derived from climate change, a global pandemic can further exacerbate these issues. However, the economic opportunities and sustainable livelihoods provided by healthy blue forests can help to increase community resiliency during global crises like the COVID-19 pandemic.

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What is the connection between zoonotic pandemics and ecosystem degradation?

COVID-19 and other zoonotic pandemics come partially as a result from degraded ecosystems. UNEP and the International Livestock Research Institute note four environmental drivers that can contribute to the emergence of new zoonotic diseases:

  1. Increased demand for animal protein 

  2. Increased levels of intense, unsustainable farming practices

  3. Increased exploitation of wildlife 

  4. The overall climate crisis affecting the globe 
     

In order to prevent future zoonotic diseases, governments around the world are recommended to incentivize the sustainable management of land and coastal ecosystems to enhance the co-existence of agriculture and wildlife, as well as develop alternatives for food security and economic livelihoods which do not rely on the degradation of biodiversity and habitats.

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In what ways has COVID-19 presented challenges for blue forests communities around the world?

The pandemic has impacted livelihoods and presented unprecedented challenges to communities around world. Over the past year and a half, limited mobility has resulted in significant economic impacts for developing countries. Impacts include the closure of markets and spaces for trade, steep declines in travel and tourism, increased health risks for occupations unable to work remotely, among many other pandemic-related stressors. In addition to economic livelihoods threatened, these regions also face challenges related to the governance of communal resources when local organizations and associations are unable to gather for in-person discussions.

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How can blue forests support economic and community resilience during a pandemic?  

Despite the pressing obstacles presented by COVID-19, examples of economic resilience throughout Blue Forests Project case study sites illustrate how opportunities for supplemental sources of income and community organizing have persisted throughout the pandemic.

 

See the slideshow below for in-depth examples of economic and community resilience during the pandemic in Ecuador, Kenya, and Indonesia.

 

Hover over each example to pause the slideshow

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Economic Resilience and Conservation Concessions

Gulf of Guayaquil, Ecuador

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Due to the organizational structure of regional fisheries associations, monthly community meetings are customary to discuss the territorial management of these mangroves and exchange knowledge between associations. However, with in-person meetings no longer feasible during the COVID-19 pandemic, these groups have had to adapt. Associations were able to access a common Zoom account so that regular meetings could be held and the management of local mangroves could continue throughout the pandemic.

 

Another significant challenge presented in Guayaquil during COVID-19 has been the wide-spread shut down of large markets, namely fish markets, where fisheries associations would ordinarily be selling their catch. The closing of markets have also increased local food insecurity for communities residing in mangrove-rich areas where traditional agricultural practices are not possible, thus necessitating small-scale trades and barters throughout the Gulf. For example, some fisheries associations like in Cerrito de los Morreños will trade their usual seafood and shellfish catch from the mangroves (shrimp, crab, cockles, and fish) with native vegetables and fruits from the nearby town of Naranjal. Practices like these demonstrate the adaptability of fisheries associations to maintain food security in their communities despite market closures.

Finally, and perhaps most impactful for economic resilience, the financial incentives from the Ecuadorian government to the fisheries associations for the protection and conservation of mangroves have not ceased during the pandemic.