Estuary economics: Volta Region reporters visit mangrove restoration project

Where the Volta River meets the sea on the eastern coast of Ghana, two communities are planting mangroves and digging waterways to promote the health of the area’s ecosystem.

Jubilee 106.9 FM radio station

Jubilee 106.9 FM hosts Samuel Dolvo and Raymond Buckner met with the Agbledomi community to plan how they will report on this story.

Members of these communities are also working with others from the Salo, Agortoe, Akplorwotorkor, Bemigo, Dzita and Atitetey communities to achieve their common goal of a healthy mangrove population.

The July 3 visit to the Agbledomi community

The radio story will join other solutions-based reporting as part of Farm Radio International’s On-Air for Gender-Inclusive Nature-based Solutions project. With funding from Global Affairs Canada, Farm Radio is working with radio stations in six countries to create scripts, documentaries and radio programs about how people are working with nature to adapt to climate change – and how others can do the same.

Country program manager Rosemond Ohene and radio craft officer Issac Mintah accompanied the Jubilee radio team to help gather information and meet the community leaders who are taking action.

Restoration through the Community Resource Management Area model

The Community Resource Management Area approach to conservation puts decision-making power in the hands of local people, while reinforcing the community’s right to benefit from the natural resources around them. The Ghana Wildlife Division originally developed this model.

The resource group has a five-person executive team, which Samuel and Raymond hope to interview during their next visit. The purposes of today’s visit were to listen to members of the resource group speak about their work and become familiar with the area.

The community will finalize the detailed plan for the on-the-record interviews after the Jubilee and Farm Radio teams leave. The purpose of these community-initiated processes for scheduling, gate-keeping and decision-making is to make sure Farm Radio’s interactions with the community are convenient and appropriate.

Members of the resource management group said they hope the mangroves will help increase the number of fish and crabs in the estuary. “Estuary” refers to the area where a freshwater body connects to the ocean.

The resource management group first came together in 2019 after visitors from the Development Institute, a Ghana-based non-profit organization, raised the concern that harvesting mangroves harms the ecosystem.

Jubilee 106.9 FM host Samuel Dolvo stands in front of processed mangroves.

Some people in the community resource group emphasized that previous generations of mangrove harvesters knew it was important to plant more in the brackish water, where these plants thrive. “Brackish” is a term for water that is not marine saltwater, but is also not freshwater. Instead, it is extra salty freshwater.

The resource group said the ecosystem is essential to the local economy, which is based on fishing and mangrove harvesting.

The resource group executive team’s secretary, Major Kamasah, explained that many young people had to move away from the community to look for better working opportunities because there are no longer enough fish and crabs to catch for commercial and personal use.

The Anloga District municipal assembly member representing Agbledomi, Jasper Agbanator, told us he supports the resource management group’s work.

Seeing the root of the problem and the roots of the solution

White mangroves

After the resource group meeting, Mr. Agbanator invited the Jubilee and Farm Radio teams to visit the mangrove nursery up close. Major sat at the front of the boat, pointing out the different types of mangroves and explaining how the planting process worked.

There are white, red and black mangroves. The white mangrove’s roots and trunk are much thicker and sturdier than the red and black mangroves.

Mangrove germination

Red mangroves are often dried out and sold for firewood. According to the resource group, many women make money by selling fish they smoke on the dried mangroves.

People collect the mangrove fruits and plant them in the water after a period of germination. Major pointed out the baby mangroves on the shore.

There is a clear line dividing the darker water on the river side of the estuary and the brighter water on the seawater side of the estuary.

The line between the river side of the estuary and the seawater side of the estuary

To get to the estuary line between the lighter and darker water, we travelled through a waterway made by the community.

The original cycle of circulation promoted the right amount of saltiness in the water for the health of the fish and plants, like mangroves.

To make the alternative waterway, people used hoes to break up the rock before removing it by hand. Then, a dredging machine to deepen the waterway enough for small boats to pass. Community members worked for more than two weeks to reconnect the river and ocean after tidal waves formed a sandbank over the old route, Major said.

There used to be a community on the strip of land where the sand bank currently divides the open sea from the seawater side of the estuary. Most people had to leave when the tidal waves hit in 2021.

Major and Mr. Agbanator said the water quality on the river side of the estuary line is poor because it can no longer flow into the sea.

Mr. Agbanator said the government should step in to remove the sand blockade, because it will flush out unwanted particles in the river side of the estuary.

He has previously made public statements about this issue, such as in Ghana News Agency’s coverage of sandbar blocks in the region last year. His advocacy represents one step towards ensuring the community can sustain itself, no matter what challenges climate change throws its way.

Restoring the water quality is important to the communities that surround this estuary because a healthy ecosystem means an optimistic future, especially for young people like Major.

About the project
The On-Air for Gender-Inclusive Nature-based Solutions project is a 5-year project led by Farm Radio International in partnership with the Government of Canada that will use high-impact radio programs to work with local communities in Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Uganda and Zambia to identify, share and support local Nature-based Solutions and amplify those solutions to a network of 3,500 broadcasters across 38 African countries so they can be duplicated across the continent.

About the author
Morgana Adby volunteered as a journalism intern for Farm Radio International in Ghana in summer 2023 for our project about Nature-based Solutions to climate change.

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