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Waterway Conservation Needs to Start With Communities

Sri Lanka was the first country to comprehensively protect all of its mangrove trees.

The wetlands of the tropics, mangroves serve as nurseries to fish that will go on to populate coral reefs, protect villages from tsunamis and hurricanes, and contribute to communities’ livelihoods. With their branching roots that arch into coastal waters, these trees are also vital in the fight against climate change. Scientists have found that mangrove forests sequester three to five times more carbon than other forests. Mangrove conservation can offer a big return on investment, but only if those investments generate the right kind of buy-in.

“People think, if they don’t cut the mangroves, there go the shrimp,” said Anuradha Wickramasinghe, the chairman of the Sri Lanka-based nongovernmental organizationSudeesa, which is providing fisherwomen with microloans in exchange for their protection of the mangroves. “But the coastal belt lagoons can get more natural shrimp if the mangroves are there.”

Sigit Deni Sasmito/CIFOR

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