Mangrove forests, seagrass meadows, saltwater marshes – these and other ‘blue forests’ are vital to coastal and island communities around the world
Local Policy Approaches
Understanding and aligning local interests and activities with the conservation and management of blue forests ecosystems can be critical in achieving successful outcomes. At the local level, engagement and support from local communities and stakeholders can enhance direct management approaches and support the development of management plans tailored to local conditions. They can also provide local opportunities for integrating the stewardship with local employment opportunities that can bring many benefits including the adoption of mangrove management practices, development of local expertise, increased fisheries stocks, shoreline protection, and carbon financing with local benefits.
Below are the key questions asked at the initial stages of a forming a community organization and developing local policy initiatives.
What is a blue forests community association?
A blue forests community association is a nongovernmental association of participating members of a local community, such as a village in a delineated geographic area encompassing a mangrove forest. Participation may be voluntary or paid. Community associations may serve as quasi-governmental groups assisting with the governance of a communally resource (e.g., mangrove resources), or a project that impacts or benefits the whole community (e.g., fisheries, ecotourism, beekeeping, and carbon finance).
Several community associations have been involved in achieving project goals in Blue Forests Project sites. This includes the following:
Kenya - The Mikoko Pamoja Community Organization (MPCO) is a government registered community organization that coordinates community engagement, routine project activities and benefit sharing for the Mikoko Pamoja project. This community association is governed by volunteer office members, consisting of village representatives from the project area who have the responsibilities of community administration and implementation of project work plans. Project technical work is coordinated by a paid Project Coordinator who plays a key role in the office of the MPCO and provides a link with the Mikoko Pamoja Steering Group (MPSG).
Kenya - The Vanga Blue Forest project is governed by the Vanga-Jimbo-Kiwegu Community Forest Association (VAJIKI). This community association guides the utilisation of local mangrove resources including supporting community benefit from Plan Vivo carbon offsets and other non-extractive uses of mangroves such as increased fish quantities, eco-tourism, bee keeping among other ecological services.
Ecuador - Local fishing associations support the sustainable management of mangrove forests through the mangrove concession agreements in the Gulf of Guayaquil. These associations also ensure equitable outcomes and self-regulate fishing activities. Through Conservation International Ecuador, the Blue Forests Project has supported 6 mangrove concession agreements with local fishery associations of crab and shell collectors.
How are blue forests community associations
In Kenya, the introduction of Participatory Forestry Management (PFM) in 1997 led to the formation of community-based organizations which have come to be referred to as Community Forest Associations (CFAs). At the Blue Forests Project sites, the MPCO and VAJIKI serve as the CFAs. Both have entered into forest management agreements with the Kenya Forest Service (KFS). This agreement confers management roles to the communities and allows them to receive carbon finance, with the KFS retaining the forest resource ownership right and the right to withdraw the agreement in total or part. The community association membership is by election with gender diversity mandated at ¼ female to male membership.
In Ecuador, local fishing associations can request mangrove areas for protection and utilization under a “Sustainable Use and Mangrove Custody Agreement.” This legal instrument guarantees beneficiaries allows participation in mangrove concession agreements (e.g., the socio mangler scheme) and gives exclusive access to fishing resources in these areas.
How are blue forests community associations
In Ecuador, membership of fishing associations depends on the type of mangrove resources harvested for economic gain and local livelihoods. These include crabs, cockle shell, oyster, mussels, shrimp, and different species of fish. The management activities of a fishing association typically include conducting meetings once a month to administer internal rules regarding resources management and the promotion of reforestation program.
The organizational structure of a fishing association is similar among all 6 concessions supported by the Blue Forests Project. They consist of a president, administrator, secretary, and director that are also members of the monitoring board that coordinates the actions for surveillance. Usually, members work from Monday to Saturday around 4-5 hours harvesting wild-caught species for food.
What are the impacts of community associations on sustainable management of blue forests ecosystems?
In 2020, though the MPCO and VAJIKI, Mikoko Pamoja and VBF (Vanga Blue Forest) merged efforts to support 148 households from Gazi, Makongeni, Vanga, Kiwegu and Jimbo villages respectively, with food and sanitary provisions. Funds were donated by the two projects with facilitation from Association of Coastal Ecosystem Services (ACES) in a bid to cushion the arisen socio-economic impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic that was then majorly affecting the region and the country at large. Several basic food items, sanitary materials e.g. soaps and masks were provided. Door-to-door deliveries were made and small events held which increased awareness on preventive measures against COVID-19.