Mangrove Roots


Samuel Nugent of the Mangrove Action Project has written an interesting paper on mangrove forests. "These diverse wetlands," he writes, "found along tropical and subtropical coasts, play an important role as buffer zones between land and sea. They remove silt and sediment from fresh water as it empties into the ocean, while buffering the coast from erosion and storm damage. An estimated 75 percent of all tropical marine fish spend some part of their lives in the rich web of mangrove roots, which are breeding grounds and nutrient-rich nurseries."

Governments, Nugent points out, have not done a very good job of protecting these areas. More often, what's worked is control "by the fishers and farmers who have traditionally inhabited the mangrove forests." As an example, he points to the Small Fishers Federation of Sri Lanka, which "banded together in 1984 to fortify themselves against the powerful influence of large corporate and political interests. The SFFL now includes 22 percent of the nation's independent fishers and more than 146 fishing communities throughout the country. The federation helped define clear fishing rights for its members and worked with local and regional enforcement agencies to enforce them." The next step, Nugent argues, is to give the fishers full legal rights to their territories.

In addition to its conservation work, the federation funds revolving loans for its members, community education projects, and other mutual aid programs. All in all, not a bad alternative to centralized control.