Blue Carbon Financing of Mangrove Conservation in the Abidjan Convention Region: A Feasibility Study

3. Blue carbon inWest, Central and Southern Africa

This chapter assesses the cultural importance as well as the status of the region’s blue carbon stocks and the potential to secure international payments for them.

3.1 Social and cultural values of blue carbon environments inWest, Central and Southern Africa

The following excerpts are from volume two of F. Harrison Rankin’s classic book The White Man’s Grave: a visit to Sierra Leone, in 1834. “The rivers which receive the greatest proportion of teak- ships are the Malacourie and the Scarcies, both dreaded by seamen; the first particularly: it is a dull stream, bordered by swamps and mangrove, and breathing fogs; prolific only in disease, musquitoes (sic.) and the hippopotamus. Its weary heat, its sluggish close atmosphere, its clouds of mosquitoes, are attributes never to be forgotten by the sailor who has lived to tell his experience of the Malacourie.” Despite the negative attributes described above by explorers and traders in the 1800s, the long occupation of mangroves and the sophisticated management of mangrove areas in West, Central and Southern Africa is attested by André Alvarez d’Almada (1594), who describes the construction of wet rice landscapes, based on seasonal flooding. Rice cultivation in the mangrove swamps defined the communal territory of the northern rivers’ people (between the current region of the Saloum Delta in Senegal and Sierra Leone) (Cormier-Salem, 1999). Even then, rice cultivation managed water via dykes and dams to avoid intrusion of salty water from the sea and to flush saline soils with water. To date, major threats to mangroves include over-harvesting, clear-felled corridors, sand extraction and woodcutting for household needs. The practice of smoking fish to preserve it can also place added pressure on mangrove forests due to the use of mangrove wood and mangrove charcoal in the smoking process. In other mangrove regions around the world, industrial aquaculture (notably shrimp farming) is a major threat to mangroves, although pond aquaculture in the coastal areas of West, Central and Southern Africa is not well developed. Figure 5 shows the value chain of mangroves in a typical Ghanaian coastal village (Tsikata, et al., 1997), while Tables 4 and 5 provide the very wide range of values and uses ofmangroves.Theproponents of blue carbonneed to consider the lessons learned on sharing resources and habitat as well as the trade-offs that exist in this region. For the purposes of this section, we shall focus on the values of mangroves for food and food processing, their medicinal values and the values associated with culture and tradition, including those for managing and conservingmangroves. Figure 5 also shows the socially differentiated roles thatmen andwomenplay as actors in the Mangrove value chain - with a deeper understanding of these roles, it should be possible to design alternative means of use where harm to the mangroves is reduced

According to archaeological sources, mangroves (and, more generally, coastal wetlands and estuaries) are considered among the first places of human settlement (Higham, 1988). Human occupation of mangroves and evidence of their multiple uses (for food, wood, building material, transport, etc.) are attested in Africa as far back as 5000 BP (Linares de Sapir, 1971; Thilmans & Descamps, 1982; Camara, 2010). Along the west coast of Africa, shell middens reveal the presence of clay pots and tools made with shells and the teeth of sharks, and food remains (rice, fish). These shell middens constitute the main, otherwise unique, information source on the first human establishments in mangroves. They also testify to the very old commercial exchanges along the coast: salt, salted and dried fish, leather and livestock from the north were exchanged with kola nuts, pepper, and rice from the south (Cormier-Salem, 1999). In the 1400s, during the ‘Age of Discovery’, Portuguese sailors arrived at the Gulf of Guinea. The first lands they came across were most certainly bordered by mangroves and many of the descriptions of these adventurers attest to these forests in the sea, shrouded in mystery. Later explorers to the region during the pre-colonial period referred to these coasts as “the white man’s grave” (see Box 1 ).

Box 1. The Mosquito Medal

In 1973, Sierra Leone’s government created a new award for military and civil gallantry and called it the Order of the Mosquito. The government explained that the Order was so named to honour the malaria-carrying mosquito that made Sierra Leone “the white man’s grave” and prevented Europeans from settling there and creating “another Rhodesia”.


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