In recent years, exploitation of natural resources and fisheries, lack of alternative livelihoods, destruction of coastal habitats and sand dredging have deteriorated the mangrove ecosystems, leaving local communities highly susceptible to poverty and impacts of climate change.
For sustainable coastal ecosystems, we need to promote the relationship between healthy ecosystems and improved livelihoods, through participation from all stakeholders.
To protect Koh Kong’s mangroves, Mangroves for the Future (MFF) supported three projects through its small grant facility. Implemented in 2014, the projects focus on mangrove protection and restoration, livelihood diversification and biogas-based sustainable renewable energy.
These MFF-funded projects have contributed to building local resilience by enhancing economic growth and food security, and empowering local communities to promote locally effective actions to protect mangroves. The projects have also helped beneficiaries by building capacity for climate resilient and sustainable livelihoods through integrated poultry farming systems, multi-vegetable cropping, climate-smart agriculture such as water-saving irrigation systems, and recycling farming. Through increased awareness and training, some beneficiaries have been able to diversify and build upon their existing livelihoods, applying new knowledge and technical skills which can be replicated and up-scaled to larger areas. The farmers expressed that the programme has helped to develop efficient and reliable market linkages so that they are no longer farming only for subsistence, but are also able to export their goods to local markets and expand their production potential.
Besides sustainable livelihoods development, another MFF-SGF programme priority is to provide alternative and sustainable renewable energy solutions for communities such as biogas. Biogas digesters convert animal manure into energy in the form of biogas, which is a clean and safe fuel for cooking and lighting. These digesters replace the need to use expensive gas canisters, thus reducing household costs. Utilisation of biogas also helps to reduce deforestation by acting as a substitute fuel for firewood, which conserves valuable natural infrastructure (e.g. mangrove forests) that aids in mitigating future climate change risk.
In the past, Chhay Vutha, a project beneficiary, had to use four canisters of gas and six bundles of firewood per day. Now, she does not depend on firewood at all. “I am happy with the results of this programme – I no longer need to spend $75 a month on gas canisters for cooking. Using biogas as a fuel is also a lot safer for me and my family,” said Chhay. Since feeding a biogas digester requires only 40 minutes, compared to the several hours it would take to collect firewood, Chhay and her husband have now been able to provide additional income to the household by growing vegetables, raising chickens and conducting small businesses.