Mangrove targets being met but challenges remain –EU report

Targets in the EU-funded national mangrove project are being met but issues such as institutional sustainability remain a major challenge, a recent report on the implementation of the National Mangrove Management Ac-tion Plan (NMMAP) has said.

“The programme is highly relevant and has great potential but lacks an overall operational plan; instead plans are done annually and it is difficult to measure overall progress,” said the project’s monitor, Alicia Hayman. “Institutional sustainability remains a major challenge at this point,” she added in her Monitoring Report.

The mangroves project was initiated in 2010 to support Guyana’s Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS), particularly to address restoration of mangroves in areas which have been denuded, facilitate afforestation in areas where mangroves never existed and climate change abatement.  It is funded by the European Union.

Chair of the mangrove committee, Annette Arjoon-Martins told Stabroek News that the sustainability weaknesses mentioned will be addressed when the EU releases the technical assistance funds (Euros 420 000) early next year. This should ideally have been made available at the start of the project, she said adding that it was a flaw in the project design that will be corrected.

Hayman said that the project is well on its way towards meeting financial assistance performance criteria and “a range of outputs have been achieved to date with many unplanned positive outcomes.” The programme is flexible to respond to changes and local contexts, she said. “The programme is already reaping success in creating impact. It has an impressive public awareness and education component; replanting is more than expected at this point; collaboration is evident and contributing to pooling of resources; legislative changes have been made; procedures and protocols established; economic livelihoods are being developed and technical capacity built. Unplanned positive impacts are strengthening the ability to create the platform for long term mangrove management,” the report stated.

However, Hayman said that sustainability of the initiative is highly dependent on two factors that have been noted in the programme context and the Strategic Environmental Assessment of the Sea and River Defence Policy.

These factors are the need for definition of and revisiting roles and responsibilities and the need for improved linkages among stakeholders as well as data analysis; and the development of a financing framework of mangrove management.

“Neither of these factors has been given critical attention in the programme. To date the programme failed to consider development of long term institutional arrangements (structures and mechanisms) and provide a case for sustained government allocation for mangrove management,” said Hayman. Gover-nance structures being developed do not fit within existing structures and mechanisms, she observed. “There is weak ownership of the NMMAP that will be revised throughout the programme and without definition of the institutional arrangements mangrove management will remain ad hoc,” she said.

Technical capacity
The Monitor noted though that technical capacity is being built in the Guyana Forestry Commission, Work Services Group and others while a code of practice for mangrove management is being developed alongside monitoring protocols and manuals as well as awareness and education.

Earlier, Hayman had noted that sustainability was not an integral and direct part of the design of the project but specific means are involved that could result in sustained action, if they are channeled and developed in the correct way. She outlined several ways in which this could be done.

“However, there are weak institutional arrangements and no financial framework for mangrove management. No transitioning or phase out strategy is evident,” she said.

The report recommended that institutional arrangement workshops be undertaken to define the roles and responsibilities of the relevant stakeholders as well as the establishment of recommendations for sustained action on mangrove management. The secretariat was also urged to make a case to decision makers for government allocation for mangrove management.

The report said that the programme is highly likely to bring critical and relevant benefits to the country, especially to persons living along the coast. It was noted too that the project supports institutional strengthening by building technical capacity and data management, and ownership by including key stakeholders in decision making and playing leadership roles in specific components of the project.

As an example, the report started that rather than relying on the use of consultants  for mapping and monitoring  of the tropical shrub, the GFC’s capacity has been built to conduct such activities  and the  agency  also provides  project support to the programme  through its technical expertise and equipment.

As regards the actual implementation of the project, the report said that costs are kept within budget lines and implementation of funds is done via various operating procedures. It was noted that spending was slow after nine months, and only a small amount of funds have been expended to date. At the same time, cost savings in some areas of the project have been used to enhance other areas.  As regards the replanting, the monitor noted that this has been done in 3.5km of seashore area with 144,965 seedlings at seven sites. The replanting has exceeded the target to date, the monitor noted.

Arjoon-Martins said that issues raised by the report will be addressed by the secretariat and she stated that she was pleased by the overall findings of the EU monitor. In addition, she said that the secretariat has approached the University of Guyana‘s (UG) School of Earth and Environ-mental Science to be proactive with the research component since “we had poor responses to the first two calls for research proposals (only four researches done so far) which was surprising knowing that researchers are always happy for funding for their final year research especially and we have even simplified the application form to attract more research proposals.”

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