Mangrove ecosystems support the planet and people in unique ways. Many Nigerians living near the river in Cross River State know that. “Mangroves provide the best firewood, as people who roast fish know,” says Idem Williamson, a villager living in Esierebom community in Cross River State. “But by cutting the wood, the mangroves disappeared. And without the mangroves, water floods our houses.”

The need to restore mangroves inspired Williamson to get involved for a REDD+ project that saw the whole community come together to plant more than 10,000 seedlings.

“The positive effect is that it controls the level of water coming in from the rivers and allows us to use the creeks for fishing. And we can pick the unwanted branches of the mangroves in specific areas for firewood.”

Pressure’s on for Nigeria’s mangroves

Nigeria is said to have the largest mangrove ecosystem in Africa, and some consider the Cross River estuary mangrove to be one of the most important in the country. However, indigenous fishing communities on the coast harvest mangrove wood for household domestic use, in particular for cooking and smoking fish. This has put severe pressure on mangrove forests, leading to steady deforestation.

Wood from mangrove forests is also used for housing material, scaffolding, fishing stakes and more. The increasing demand for mangrove wood and the steady encroachment and spread of the nypa palm, an invasive mangrove plant, has exposed the country’s mangrove forests to severe degradation.

Read more at UN Environment