Mangrove Rehabilitation in Laguna Terminos Mexico
Restoration through Community Engagement in the Developing World by Brett Davis
A project is underway in the mangrove forests of Isla del Carmen on Laguna de Terminos of Campeche, Mexico, that demonstrates the powerful role social engagement can play in restoration ecology. The mangroves there, which are vitally important to the local fishing industry and many other ecosystem services, have started to die in several locations due to sedimentation of natural waterways caused by storm events.
As a result, fishing in the area has declined in recent years and those trying to make a living from the life in these waters have either had to go further into the Gulf of Mexico for their catch or lose their jobs. Several Mexican government agencies in coordination with the Gulf of Mexico Large Marine Ecosystem project (GoM LME) initiated a rehabilitation project in 2009 to revive 200 hectares of dead and dying mangroves. The project coordinators took a unique approach to the restoration when they successfully involved the local community in a direct and enduring way that has had multifaceted benefits
value in order to succeed at saving these mangroves. He helped show them the role mangroves play in the ecosystem and to experience the benefits of mangrove rehabilitation. “Involving stakeholders in ecological restoration programs from the start of the project, and providing ways for them to participate in both planning and technical implementation is critical.” He and others partnered with representatives from the Mexican Environmental Secretary, National Forestry Commission, Carmen University and the Mexican Area Protected Commission, to develop a plan that would pay locals, often fisherman and their families, to re-establish waterways and to help with project monitoring efforts. “At first, the project workers were just happy to have work.” Although they were being paid only 6 dollars per day for difficult labor, they knew the work would be there for them. As the workers spent time with Arturo in the field talking with him and being immersed in the ecosystem, they learned more and more about the short and long-term benefits of what they were doing.
RESTORATION IN THE DEVELOPING WORLD
It is necessary to put the project into a socio-economic context to understand the success of what is happening with social engagement in Laguna de Terminos.Social engagement on a restoration project in the developed world might involve unpaid volunteer work that happens at one, or a few points, along a project timeline. In the fishing villages of Mexico, however, it is both necessary and beneficial to pay workers to be on a project full time. Not only are the people there using the work as primary source of income, but the intense labor they are doing pays off in the form of improving local ecosystem services. Also, while participating on the project, many of the workers, who have no formal education or training in the sciences, develop a better understanding of ecosystem functions and have more invested interest in the outcome of the restoration work.Workers are helping in mapping work and some post-monitoring activities. “The challenge is now the replicability of the program”. Arturo, Hermina and severla of the recruits have