Balancing between protection and use

Pruning the mangroves provides wood, but it is hard work. (c) Eco-Bénin

Benin – When natural areas are given protected status, you have to strike a balance between protecting and preserving the services nature provides to humans. This is certainly the case in the Bouche-du-Roy nature reserve.

In this area in southern Benin, canals play a key role in the movement of people and goods. Canals alone account for almost 80 per cent of people’s movements between villages and to markets and other important places on the alluvial plain of the Mono River. These canals are mainly lined with mangroves, whose density has increased over the past decade thanks to measures to protect and conserve the ecosystem.

The mangrove species is under severe pressure as local people cut the mangrove wood for energy supply and other purposes. The establishment of the reserve and the strengthening of awareness campaigns for mangrove protection have reduced logging pressure and allowed the mangrove to spread widely. Mangrove logging in Mono department has been banned by decree since 30 June 2023.

Difficult passage

The growth of the mangrove did make passage on the canals more difficult, movements by water are no longer as evident, and canoes have already capsized. Locals previously expressed the need to trim mangrove trees in the protected area.

When analysing the situation and needs in preparation for our new programme, this surfaced again. Together with our partner Eco-Benin, we set up an advocacy programme, which led to a one-time permission from the Forestry Inspectorate to prune the mangroves along the canals.

Men and women join in

Meetings were organised in the villages concerned to plan everything, as a lot of canals are involved. So the residents of the villages are heavily involved and also provide the manpower for the work. The men clear the canals and the women bring the waste to the villages. An oversight committee, comprising government and community representatives, keeps an eye on the work.

Over a length of 9.5 km, the stretches of mangrove trees already rewere pruned substantially, the stretches averaging 12 metres thick.

Original text and pictures: Juste DJAGOUN – Eco-Benin
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The canal to my village of Lanhou was really clogged. In several places, it was impossible to fully extend the paddle without risking getting stuck in leaves or branches. Canoes regularly capsized, especially women returning from the market in Comè, sometimes with their babies on their backs, fell into the water. Since the completion of the clearance works, these situations have not recurred. We would like to thank Join For Water and Eco-Benin who supported us. The whole community is happy about it.

Hademè Debgoe, shop keeper, chairwoman of Lanhou Savings and Credit Group.