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Women give new life to Sri Lanka’s mangrove forests

In Sri Lanka, a micro-credit project for fisherwomen aims to safeguard and increase mangrove forests.

The fisherwomen of the village of Ambantotam, Sri Lanka, started to look differently at their sea and mangrove forests, they started to love and protect them. In fact, they have helped recreating and reinforcing an entire ecosystem thanks to a micro-credit project funded by Sudeesa, a national organisation working since 1997 to protect coastal ecosystems.

 

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The scheme consists of giving a loan of 50 to 2,000 dollars to every woman living near mangrove forests, incentivising them to develop sustainable fishing methods and protect mangrove forests.

 

The initiative allowed these women to understand the importance of mangrove forests for coastal ecosystems, for the island inhabitants’ life and for the economy of local communities. “Now we know – and from us, our husbands and our community also have become aware” said Michel Priyadarshani, head of the fisherwomen’s group.

 

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The test phase, that included 2,000 loans, was so positive that the rate of loan repayment by now accounts for 96 percent. Given the success obtained, the initiative will be applied in all Sri Lanka villages thanks to the American environmental association Seacology, that will make available 3.4 million dollars.

 

Mangrove forests Thirty years ago, the coastlines of the island were covered with 40,000 hectares of mangroves, while today only 9,000 hectares of forests are left: this was due to intensive deforestation to give place to shrimp farming facilities. Not only was the destruction of these forests harmful for fish habitats, but it represents the only way to protect coastal populations from floods.

 

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Sri Lanka’s turn to mangrove protection is due to new president Maithripala Sirisena who, through the Forest Ordinance Act, declared the commercial exploitation of the area illegal.

 

The micro-credit national plan and the other projects of environmental protection, aims to safeguard the remaining hectares of forest as well as the planting of 3.8 hectares of mangroves.

 

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