by Geoff Szafranski, Ecosystem Monitoring Volunteer
Mangroves in this area and many others are viewed as being both culturally important and important for the many resources that they provide the community. Mangroves can serve as nurseries for young fish, allowing them to develop safely and move to other areas such as coral reefs. These fish are a source of food and money for local human populations. The trees also support many other species, including crabs, birds, lizards and large varieties of invertebrates such as insects and spiders. The trees themselves are also an important resource, providing wood for building and creating charcoal.
Since the importance of mangroves is widely recognized, the effort to replant deforested areas is a popular event that is repeated throughout the year. I had the pleasure of attending one such event while I was staying at Honko.
The day turned out to be both fun and successful. Not only did the community turn out in large numbers to aid with the effort, but several other organizations also joined the festivities. This included the local mangrove management association, VOI Mamelo Honko. I had the opportunity to sit with the ladies of the group, and was teased over my scruffy beard. Additionally one of the people to arrive was no less than the minister of the environment, who is a top dog in Madagascar’s government. He arrived to honor the VOI and presented a certificate to Philemon, president of the VOI and one of Honko’s local eco-guides.
The honor was marked with speeches and festive music, giving the day the air of a celebration. Which is what it was in the end: a celebration of the important role mangroves play for the local community.
After the speeches were over the group moved at large to collect mangrove propagules, which are structures that occur on certain mangrove species where the seed remains attached to the parent tree, allowing the embryo to develop to a degree after which it can survive on its own. The long, thin, dark green propagules were piled high in Honko’s truck, and the people assisting in the planting effort grabbed them in handful or stacked them in woven baskets.
From the truck the group moved en large into the mangroves. The plot they chose for the replanting effort was a wide muddy expanse that had been cleared of wood some time before.
When everyone arrived they went out the business of sticking the long propagules straight into the mud like a spear. This position will give the mangroves the best chance to survive. The only thing waiting in the field to wrinkle the smoothness of the proceedings was the occasional deep spots in the soft soggy mud. Far from being a problem though, people (me included) falling in and pin wheeling their arms for balance only added to the merriment of the day.
When the plantings were done the mud was well churned with foot prints and the field was checkered with the dark green propagules. The field itself standing across from a previous planting effort. A field blanketed with the light green and dark browns of mangroves, the field stood both as a testament to the success of replanting efforts and as a good omen for the future of the seed filled mud pit across from it.