Rays of hope shine on the Ankobra Mangroves
It’s a story of life, nature and rebirth. A story of possibility and hope.
This is a story of a community's resolution to rebuild what they destroyed by their own actions and inactions and ensure that they leave a better community for the generations unborn.
It tells of how a combination of strong minds, commitment, resources and a will to do good can change the future of a community.
Periwinkles on the mangrove floor
The people Sanwoma also called Ankobra in the Western region of Ghana have decided to live peaceably with nature and hand it over to the next generation with little tinkering. They believe they owe it a responsibility to do so.
Nature was benevolent to Ankobra; they found themselves on the banks of the Ankobra river with beautiful serene mangroves.
Mangroves are trees or shrubs which grow in tidal, chiefly tropical, coastal swamps. They usually have numerous tangled roots that grow above ground and form thickets. They are mostly found in coastal areas especially along estuaries and serve as breeding grounds for many fish species.
The mangroves keep communities along rivers from storms and from being flooded.They can grow into huge trees.Picturesque and enchanting; these mangroves.
Some of the journalists on the boat to the mangrove site
Mostly fisherfolks, the community of Ankobra depend largely on the mangroves.
They cut them for firewood to smoke fish caught. "Fish smoked with wood from the mangroves taste better" they say.
Some others use the wood to build their huts.
And so from ages gone, the people cut the mangroves depleting about 115 hectares of the graceful "river garden."
"Ignorance is not a good thing. We did not know the implications of our actions," Mr Kweku Duah, a member of the community said in an interview.
Periwinkles picked from the mangrove site
In its place they left swamps that turn parched ground when the water subsides.
The Global Picture
The Ankobra community is not the only community that depleted its mangroves.
Infact more than 35% of the world’s mangroves are already gone according to a report by the World Wide Fund for Nature.
The report noted that threats to mangroves included clearing, overharvesting, overfishing and climate change.
We have depended on the mangroves for years. Our father's used them. And we also. But we never knew they could be replanted,” Mr Duah stated with a sense of remorse.
Now it's a different story. With the support of the Sustainable Fisheries Management Project (SFMP) of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through Hen Mpoano, a partnering non-governmental organization, some members of the community were taking on educational tours and educated on the need to replant the depleted mangrove.
Women working at the nurseries of the mangrove seedlings
After several meetings between project coordinators of Hen Mpoano and the community, the Ankobra Mangrove Restoration committee was formed to ensure the restoration of 45 hectares of depleted mangroves.
On Tuesday March 26th, 2018 about 25 journalists on a working outreach visited community.
We joined a bigger boat to the mangroves.
At the edge of the mangrove, we got into a smaller boat that took six journalists at a time and two other men from Sanwoma to see the replanted sites.
Under the mangroves we rode, swerving the strands of roots that came into our faces and balancing ourselves in the boats with concentration to avoid falling off.
About ten minutes into the mangroves, the paddler stopped. Slowly but steadily we got off the boat into the swamps; our heavy wellington boots making movement even more daunting.
Site of Hope
But the site was one that had rays of hope shining bright for what was left of the mangrove.
Little green transplanted seedlings growing out of what looked a parched stretch.
Ankobra mangrove site
"It's not about us. It's about our children. We cannot destroy the environment for future generations," Mr Duah stated.Mr Duah is a farmer, fisherman, wood cutter and all depending on the time of year.
He says he now understands that the environment must be held in trust for generations unborn.
He wore a cap and wiped off the beads of sweat from his face with the back of his palm occasionally. His eye lit brightly. He picked periwinkles and showed it to me.
"Here under the mangroves we get to pick loads of periwnkles. They won't be here if the mangroves are depleted," he said.
After three years of hard work from officials of Hen Mpoano and the community, 20 hectares of degraded mangroves have been replanted.
The NurseryThe community pick the seeds from the mangroves to a nursery and nurse them for three months.After this the seedlings are transplanted to the mangrove sites.
Mr Stephen Kankam, Project Coordinator of the Mangrove Restoration noted that it was important for communities to understand their relationship between their survival and nature in order to get them involved in preserving the environment.
“The solutions to preserving the environment have been with us. We just had to rethink them and repackage them in an attractive way for the people,” he stated.
The Planting and Unity
Madam Agatha Morkeh is part of the group which plants the seedlings.
"We love to replant the seedlings. It's for a token. It's men and women working together to restore our mangroves. It's brings us together in unity. The man digs the hole in the swamps a woman plants the seedlings. It's just beautiful," she said.
Madam Agatha Morkeh a member of the group involved in the replanting speaking to the reporter
She said they understood the importance of the mangroves even better and were ready to protect them.
The community members involved in the replanting do it for a token.
As part of the project, the Village Savings and Loans Association concept is being implemented for the members where savings are encouraged in the community.
Out of the tokens received for replanting the mangroves, planters save part.
“We save some for bad days, especially now that fish catches are very low, Agatha said.
“It helps me get seedlings for farming. When fish catches are really bad I concentrate on the farming using these savings.
Mr Daniel Doku Nortey, a project officer with Hen Mpoano said the fight to restore the mangroves though enormous was not insurmountable.
Under the mangroves
Mr noted that it was important that the communities understood the essence of cohabiting with its environment and ensuring the sustainability of the ecosystem.
He said the awareness had now been created and the communities were ready to work to ensure that their activities did not impact negatively in the mangrove in particular.
“It is an almost a perfect example of how communities can be made to work ensure the ecosystem is preserved,” he added.
The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11 stresses the need for sustainable cities and communities while the SDG 12 points the need for responsible consumption and production.
In November 2016, the General Secretary of the United Nations, Mr Ban ki Moon speaking on the 22nd Confeence of Parties (COP 22) in Morocco said he was optimistic that if all got involved and act to the world would be a better place.
Some of the journalists on the boat to the mangrove site
"We need everyone. We need action from the local to the global. Partnerships should focus on the global results today and make progress for the long term, he had stated.
Mr Moon and Mr Duah maybe miles apart but are committed to a cause to leave the world a better place.
“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope,” according to Martin Luther King, Jr.
The people of Ankobra certainly have hope that the depleted mangroves would be restored.
For Mr Duah, the communities must work even harder to restore the mangroves. “Humans are part of nature. We cannot destroy nature and live. The mangroves must not be depleted, at least not in our life time. The environment is our life”