Restoring Ghana’s Mangroves and Depleted Fish Stock

A fish catch has come in. Since the community from the Sanwoma fishing village have begun restoring the mangroves, the lagoon has seen a marginal increase in fish stock. However, the stock in the ocean remains depleted. Credit: Albert Oppong-Ansah/IP

By Albert Oppong-Ansah
ACCRA, Dec 20 2018 (IPS)

It was just three and a half years ago that the Sanwoma fishing village, which sits between the sea and the mouth of the Ankobra River on the west coast of Ghana, experienced perpetual flooding that resulted in a loss of property and life.

This was because the local mangrove forests that play a key role in combating the effects of coastal erosion and rising sea levels had been wantonly and indiscriminately harvested. “Of a total 118-hectares mangrove, we had depleted 115 hectares,” Paul Nato Codjoe, a fisherman and a resident of the community explains.

The fisherfolk here depended heavily on the Ankobra wetland mangroves for cheap and available sources of fuel for fish processing. Wood from the mangroves was also used as material for construction, and sold to generate income.

But a video shown by officials of Hen Mpoano (HM), a local non-governmental organisation, helped the community understand the direct impact of their indiscriminate felling.

And it spurred the fishfolk into action. Led by Odikro Nkrumah, Chief of the Sanwoma, the community commenced a mangrove restoration plan, planting about 45,000 seeds over the last three years.

Rosemary Ackah, 38, one of the women leaders in the community, tells IPS that the vulnerability to the high tides and the resultant impact was one of the reasons for actively participating in the re-planting.

HM, with support from the United States Agency for International Development-Ghana Sustainable Fisheries Management Project (SFMP),provided periodic community education about the direct and indirect benefits of the mangrove forests.

In Ghana, there are about 90 lagoons and 10 estuaries with their associated marshes and mangrove swamps along the 550-km coastline stretch.

Dr Isaac Okyere, a lecturer at the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, University of Cape Coast, explains to IPS in an interview that the conservation of mangrove forests is essential for countries like Ghana, where the marine fishery is near collapse, with landings of important fish species at 14 percent of the record high of 140,000 metric tons 20 years ago.

The fisheries sector in Ghana supports the livelihoods of 2.2 million people — about 10 percent of the population.

Carl Fiati, Director of Natural Resource at the Environmental Protection Agency speaking in an interview with IPS, explains: “Ghana is in a precarious situation where many of the stocks are near collapse and species like the sardine and jack mackerel cannot be found again if we do not take steps to conserve, restock and protect them. A visit to the market shows that sardines, for instance, are no more.”

The Sanwoma community is not unique in the degradation of their mangroves. According to Okyere, the Butuah and Essei lagoons of Sekondi-Takoradi, the Fosu lagoon of Cape Coast, the Korle and Sakumo lagoons of Accra and the Chemu lagoon of Tema are typical examples of degraded major lagoons in the country.

“Most of the lagoons, especially those located in urban areas, have been heavily polluted within the last decade or two.” Domestic and industrial effluent discharge, sewage, plastics, and other solid waste and heavy metal contaminants (lead, mercury, arsenic, etc.) from industrial activities are blamed for this.

Rosemary Ackah is part of the women’s group that was assigned to collect seedlings used to grown a nursery of mangrove trees. Credit: Albert Oppong-Ansah/IPS

According to Ackah, many of the women in the community also became involved in the mangrove regeneration because of the positive resultant effect of clean air that would reduce airborne diseases in the community.

“As women, we take care of our husbands and children when they are ill so we thought we should seize this opportunity to engage in this as health insurance for our families,” she added.

Ackah says the women’s group was assigned to collect seedlings used to grown a nursery. They also watered the seedlings.

“We also played a significant role during transplanting. When our husbands dig the ground we put in the seedlings and cover the side with sand. It is a joy to be part of such a great replanting project, that will help provide more fuelwood for our domestic use,” Ackah told IPS.

Codjoe says that thanks to the technical assistance from the project, the community developed an action plan for restoration and is also enforcing local laws to prevent excessive mangrove harvesting.

The community has taken control of its future, and particularly its natural resources, and has established the Ankobra Mangrove Restoration Committee to guide and oversee how the mangrove is used and maintained.

To ensure that the re-planting is sustainable, Codjoe explains that the community has, in agreement, instituted a by-law that all trees within 50 meters of the river must not be harvested. Anyone doing so will have to replant them.

It is uncertain if indiscriminate felling of the mangroves continues to happen as many in the community acknowledge the positive results of the re-planting.

“We have seen positive signs because of the re-generation, the flooding has been drastically reduced,” says Ackah.

She has witnessed another direct improvement: the high volume and large size of the shrimp, one of the delicacies in Ghana, that they local community harvests. “This has really boosted our local business and improved our diet,” she says.

Codjoe says the fish stock in the river increased and agreed that a high volume of shrimp was harvested.

Ackah adds that the project donors SFMP and local implementer HM also helped them reduce dependence on the mangroves for their livelihoods and created a resilience plan in the form of a Village Savings and Loan Scheme.

The scheme, she explains, has financially empowered members to address social and economic challenges they face, thus reducing dependence on fisheries and mangroves in terms of the need for income.

In West Africa, the economic value of nature’s contributions to people per km2 per year is valued at 4,500 dollars for mangrove coastal protection services, 40,000 dollars for water purification services, and 2,800 dollars for coastal carbon sequestration services.

This is according to an Assessment Report on the state of biodiversity in Africa, and on global land degradation and restoration, conducted under the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

Fiati says that Ghana’s new draft Coastal and Marine Habitat Regulation policy, which encapsulates the protection, management and sustainable use of mangroves, will be ready and sent to the Attorney General’s Department this month to be signed into law.

And the local fisherfolk of Sanwoma are assisting in sharing their experiences and knowledge.

In the meantime, the Sanwoma are ensuring that the importance of the preservation of their mangrove forests is passed down to young people.

“Because of a lack of knowledge about the importance of such a rich resource we were destroying it. And it was at a fast rate. Now I know we have a treasure. As a leader, I will use it to sustainably and protect it for the next generation. Also, I will make sure I educate children about such a resource so they will keep it safe,” Nkrumah told IPS.

COP24: A quick post-mortem

The 12th plenary meeting of the COP upon conclusion of the joint statements plenary. PHOTO: COP24

By Mizan Khan
Dec 20 2018 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

The Conference of the Parties 24 (COP24) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has ended on December 15, with the usual extension of more than a day to complete the deliberations. Almost 25,000 delegates from the government, non-government, private sector and faith community attended the meeting, which was mandated to adopt the Rulebook for implementation of the Paris Agreement (PA). Analysis of the event is forthcoming yet, but based on my experience as a member of the Bangladesh delegation, I regard the ultimate outcome as not satisfactory, almost frustrating, but way better than the “Brokenhagen” of 2009.

The most rancorous elements that appeared at the meeting are: recognition of the science of climate change as presented by the IPCC 1.5C Special Report; urgency of ramping up the mitigation ambition to match the call of science; fixing the share/levy of emissions trading transferable to a yet-to-be structured mechanism, replacing the Clean Development Mechanism under the soon-to-die Kyoto Protocol; the issues of climate finance (CF); and the agenda of Loss & Damage (L&D). Some elements have been agreed upon: that all countries will have to report their emissions and show progress in cutting every two years from 2024, after the global stock-taking at COP29 in 2023.

The contestations cantered particularly on two issues: how to recognise the latest IPCC Report, which entails how clearly countries should signal the need for greater mitigation to stay below the temperature limit of 1.5 degrees, the aspirational goal set under the PA. The agreed text just hints, instead of using strong language, at the need for more ambitious emission reduction pledges before 2020, which frustrates the most vulnerable countries, UN organisations and NGO activists. With tensions mounting, the UN Secretary-General Guterres had to visit the meeting several times to plead for progress. Despite settling on some parts of the Paris Rulebook, countries failed to agree on substantive issues, such as defining the ex-ante and ex-post provision of information on CF.

Actually, CF continues to be one of the most rancorous issues in all COPs, since 2015 when developed countries pledged to deliver USD 100 billion a year from 2020. Even before COP24, the rules governing CF reporting under Article 9 of the PA were expected to be direly contentious. The rules cover Article 9.5 of the PA (reporting on the projected availability of CF in future), and Article 9.7 (reporting on money already delivered). The agreed text now says developed countries “shall” and developing countries “should” report on any CF they provide, but the sought-after criteria-based common reporting format could not be agreed.

But in absence of an agreed understanding of what CF is, countries have wiggle room for creative accounting. This was starkly evident again at COP24. The decision language under both parts of Article 9 is relatively permissive, which allows countries to report the full value of loans, rather than the “grant equivalent” share as CF. Another persistent issue is the “double/triple” counting of the same money, provided through all the Rio conventions or different delivery channels. The fixing of accounting methodologies subjectively by finance providers does not allow any comparability among them. An additional prick in CF is its extreme fragmentation in delivery, with channels both public and private ranging from 99 to over 500 including over 22 multilateral CF funds. There are too many overlaps involving huge transaction costs, generating frustrations both at delivery and receiving ends. This warrants a “thinning out” of weedy tendrils of CF bureaucracies, which often clog the money to reach the target communities. So, one good decision at COP24 was the organising of a workshop next year on “effectiveness” of CF to measure its impacts at the ground. The Bangladesh delegation strongly pushed for this.

Just weeks before the meeting in Katowice, the OECD published a report on CF, which shows that in 2017 their members have provided USD 56.7 billion as CF to developing countries, but it did not specify the methodologies of reaching this number. We may recall the episode of 2015 in Paris when an OECD representative in a session on long-term finance mentioned that in 2014 they provided USD 62 billion as CF, the Indian delegate, based on their analysis, responded that only USD 2.2 billion could be regarded as credible CF. This Himalayan gulf in numbers of claimed CF delivery and actual receipt shows no sign of bridging yet.

Another interesting facet is that though grants account for over a third of bilateral CF, it is a measly 10 percent of multilateral funding. But the most vulnerable countries’ persistent demand has been to have grants as CF mainly to enhance their adaptive capacity. Also the adaptation finance remains at one-fifth of total CF, though the pledge has been to maintain a balance in support between mitigation and adaptation. What is more frustrating is that the long-agreed principles of CF under the UNFCCC, such as “new and additional” CF has been totally diluted, with no signs of resuscitation.

However, amidst the clouds shrouding the canvas of CF, there is some money flowing in to the Adaptation Fund, to the tune of USD 129 million, and some new pledges of replenishment to the Green Climate Fund, where Germany pledged an amount of USD 1.5 billion, followed by countries like France, Japan, Norway, Sweden, UK and others. It is expected that the EU will lead to fill the gap left by the US-declared withdrawal from the PA.

Finally, the Bangladesh delegation, I must say, fared well in the negotiations in the streams of Adaptation, Mitigation, CF, and Loss and Damage. In the future, it has the potential of doing a lot better, given that more rigorous homework is done before the meetings. This warrants analytical deliberations well before each meeting to generate novel ideas for consensus-building among like-minded alliances. As climate negotiations now stand as the number one global public diplomacy issue involving all countries and thousands of diverse stakeholders, our government is expected to put greater efforts in capacity building of the negotiators, particularly young ones, to carry our flag aloft in the most visible and most widely-publicised diplomatic forum.

Mizan Khan is professor, Environmental Management, North South University, and currently, visiting professor, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland, College Park, USA.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh