In the past three years IUCN has helped Fiji, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu address some key management challenges in mangrove conservation through the project Mangrove Ecosystems for Climate Change Adaptation and Livelihoods (MESCAL). In the past month the project has assessed its progress and mapped a way forward for its final year of implementation.
The MESCAL project began in 2009 with financial support from the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature and Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) under its International Climate Initiative.
Now into its fourth and final year of implementation, it is timely for the project to review its progress. In a week-long meeting held in Suva, Fiji on 18 - 22 February National Country Coordinators of the project, technical experts, partners and an independent review specialist discussed the projects accomplishments and challenges.
The project set out to empower communities, improve local management capacities, increase awareness and improve baseline scientific knowledge of mangrove resources in the hopes to improve livelihoods, conserve biodiversity and influence policy.
One of the key accomplishments for the project todate is the updating of national species inventories for all five countries. For Vanuatu there were two new mangrove species records for Efate and Santo Islands. Another major accomplishment has been the mangrove mapping conducted on a national scale in Tonga and Samoa. As a result, 26 new mangrove sites were recorded in Samoa.
Also the project has helped improve capacity for the government officials involved particularly in using new techniques on biodiversity assessments (e.g. long plots, net surveys, shoreline video assessments) in mangrove ecosystems.
The project has also completed the first phase of legislation and policy reviews for all five countries and expects this activity to be finalized soon.
Working with five countries is not without its challenges.
"We work with government agencies and they have their own mechanisms and work plans in place so we have had to work with that in mind," says Viliame Waqalevu, Technical Officer for the project based at IUCN Oceania. "Certain processes have proven to be time consuming and have caused some delay in our ground-work, but this is to be expected therefore reasonable and appropriate timelines have to be set on the completion of tasks”.
Another major challenge has been getting reports of all the assessments completed in a timely manner.
"The overall goal for this assessment is to gauge where we are in the project, what areas we need to tighten, the management issues we need to resolve and also to develop work plans for the final year," adds Dr Milika Sobey, Project Manager and Water & Wetlands Programme Coordinator at IUCN Oceania.
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