Blue Ventures

Madagascar’s mangroves, or ‘blue forests’, help to maintain healthy ecosystems and human well-being by protecting soils against erosion, conserving vital water sources, purifying the air, being a natural barrier to extreme weather, and in turn, support globally significant marine biodiversity, sustain the traditional livelihoods and fisheries of some of the world’s most vulnerable coastal communities, and play a large role in climate change mitigation.  Blue Ventures is working to promote and protect the value of mangroves in Madagascar, for their support of global marine biodiversity, traditional livelihoods and fisheries, and for the extraordinary amount of carbon stored in their biomass and sediments, known as ‘blue carbon’. If this blue carbon value can be realized, which has a value on international carbon markets, and transferred to the people whose livelihoods depend on the exploitation of mangroves, it could incentivize and finance community-led mangrove management, help safeguard fisheries, and contribute to global climate change mitigation.


The Problem

Due to mostly unregulated harvesting for timber and charcoal sold at local and regional markets, these blue forests are being lost at accelerating rates. Additionally, a rapidly growing population, poorly regulated international markets, and increasing demand for seafood are also further exacerbating the pressures on mangrove fisheries, with disastrous consequences to the livelihoods that they support. Without safeguarding these important resources, the loss of blue forests could result in the collapse of mangrove-dependent fisheries and significant carbon emissions.


The Solution

Generating blue carbon credits through the sustainable management of mangroves has the potential to contribute to climate change mitigation at a global level, to alleviate poverty and support biodiversity conservation in Madagascar’s coastal areas. Globally, 19% of global emissions from deforestation are caused by the loss of mangroves; yet when conserved and protected, 6 times more carbon per unit area can be sequestered than undisturbed Amazonian rainforest. 


How it Works

Quantifying the exact nature and dynamics of carbon sequestration and fluxes in Madagascar’s blue forests is essential for ensuring the proper valuation of blue carbon credits. Engaging local communities in blue forest protection needs not only to fulfill the conditions of Free, Prior and Informed Consent, but be driven and managed wholly by local stakeholders. As such, Blue Ventures is working to support coastal communities to participate meaningfully in blue carbon and gain an equitable share of the benefits. Currently, they are building the capacity of local management associations to protect their mangroves, contributing to the science required to quantify carbon credits, and maintaining strong communications with national institutions to support development of mangrove conservation projects that integrate into Madagascar’s national REDD+ strategy.

The Blue Forests program at Blue Ventures has a 20-year timeline (2018-2037) to support communities in generating revenue from blue forest carbon credits to fund the conservation and protection of mangroves for the purpose of climate change mitigation, poverty alleviation and to rebuild mangrove-dependent fisheries. Blue Ventures has been working with 34 communities using the Plan Vivo Standard to certify and validate carbon credits for their blue forests. This standard allows communities to formally recognize and quantify carbon sequestration, biodiversity or watershed protection. The process has a number of steps, including rigorous standards for Free, Prior and Informed consent, data collection and data dissemination to communities members, and external validation of project activities and partners, which all require technical knowledge and skills that Blue Ventures helps provide. Revenue from carbon credits will be used to compensate local community members for their work in mangrove planting, sustainable management and use of mangrove resources, mangrove patrols, and to build local infrastructure, such as schools and clean drinking water facilities. In September 2019, with Blue Ventures’ support, communities in southwest Madagascar launched the world’s largest mangrove carbon conservation project: “Tahiry Honko”.


Goals

  • Short-term: To incentivize local communities using carbon credit revenue to conserve and protect mangroves.
  • Mid-term: to improve fisheries catch through mangrove protection, so as to have a direct impact to the communities (apart from climate change adaptation).
  • Long-term: to contribute to poverty alleviation through carbon credit revenue. Part of the revenue will be used toward education in local villages and infrastructure, such as clean water facilities, ultimately contributing to the SDGs. 

Impacts to Date

  • Social development: have helped develop local infrastructure, developed alternative livelihoods, such as beekeeping within mangrove forests, which has provided additional income to the local community.
  • Environmental: have improved conservation of the 1,300 ha mangrove ecosystem, which hosts a wide array of biodiversity, such as bird and reptile species, and marine species important for fisheries that depend on mangrove health. 
  • Governance: have helped strengthen community capacity to manage a locally managed marine area (LMMA), of which the blue forests are a part. Through this support, local communities themselves are establishing their own regulations and built a strong governance structure for management of the LMMA. 
  • Women’s empowerment: Have supported women’s involvement in governance of natural resources, whose participation was previously limited due to local culture in which women rarely had a voice in local governance and management. Over the last 5 or 6 years, BV actively promoted women’s involvement in both mangrove and fisheries activities. Women are now engaged in carbon stock monitoring every year and are the leaders in mangrove planting. Women also now make up 30% of the executive committee board for the LMMA.

Challenges

  • Fluctuation of the international carbon credit market presents a challenge for generating stable revenue from carbon credits;
  • Takes time to develop as this requires extensive community consultations (for Tahiry Honko about 6 years)
  • A number of policy-related challenges:
    • Madagascar’s government still does not have a clear policy on carbon credit benefit sharing at the initial stage of the project development. Currently policy states that 22% of carbon revenue goes to the government, 5% is held as a risk buffer, resulting in less benefits for the communities managing and protecting these resources.
    • Carbon credit sale agreement  is to be carried out between the buyer and the government, not the communities themselves, resulting in a long administration process that could potentially take many months or even years to distribute funds to the communities.

Next Steps

  • Continue to assist local communities in annual reporting for the Plan Vivo Standard, supporting particularly remote communities in technical monitoring and analysis. 
  • Continue to provide financial support for the blue forests programme. External validation for carbon credits occurs every 5 years, which requires an external auditor to come to project sites and ensure all requirements are being met. BV financially supports this process. 
  • Continue to support local communities’ capacity on natural resource management, mangrove restoration and protection, blue forest patrols, and fisheries activities.
  • Continue to scale up the project, rolling it out to other areas of Madagascar, reaching more communities. 

For More Information

Visit https://blueventures.org/conservation/blue-forests/

This information was based on an interview conducted with Lalao Aigrette, lead for the Blue Forest Programme with Blue Ventures Madagascar 

Gallery Photo Credits: 

  • Louise Gardner, Blue Ventures
  • Leah Glass, Blue Ventures
  • Michel Strogoff, Blue Ventures
  • Garth Cripps, Blue Ventures

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