Coastal Conservation Takes Root

Education and Economic Agency as a Way to Protect Sri Lanka’s Mangroves

Executive Summary

This case study takes us to Sri Lanka, where mangrove ecosystems play a central role in the lives of people residing in coastal fishing communities. An important breeding, feeding, and shelter zone for fish and other marine species, intact mangroves are key in ensuring food security. Additionally, healthy mangroves safeguard coastal communities from the full severity of storms and natural disasters. Mangroves also mitigate the effects of climate change by being highly productive ecosystems for carbon sequestration. Despite providing these services, Sri Lanka’s mangroves have been threatened by civil unrest, large-scale economic activities such as industrial prawn farming, and unsustainable, small-scale household use.

This case study looks at why an approach to mangrove conservation must be considerate of coastal communities and the complex factors motivating their interactions with mangrove ecosystems. The Seacology-Sudeesa Sri Lanka Mangrove Conservation Project educates stakeholders at both the community and government level about the financial and health benefits of intact mangroves. The program also focuses on the economic well-being of coastal communities which, combined with an increased understanding of mangroves, has emboldened people to become environmental activists.

By pairing grassroots empowerment with scientific research into mangroves, the two organizations have shifted government perception of the ecosystem. This effort has led to a core policy win: lobbying the Sri Lankan government to become the first country worldwide to nationally protect its mangroves.

This case study is based on interviews conducted in Colombo, and Sri Lanka’s Northwestern and Northern provinces in January 2019.

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This case study was written by Hilary Duff

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