Threats of the Rufiji Delta

As you manoeuvre the calm waters off the coast of Nyamisati in Rufiji Delta you will not fail to notice the majestic mangrove trees that make up the canopy of mangroves forest. It’s a beautiful view mostly of natural mangrove, covering hundreds and hundreds of hectares. The communities living in the villages within the delta heavily depend on this resource for their livelihood: from the boat (made from Heritiera Littoralis mangroves) to a makeshift bridge constructed with mangrove sticks.  Houses are constructed from mangrove sticks – mostly from Ceriops Tagal and thatched with coconut tree fronds, but mangrove is also used to make boats, dugout canoe, cabinets and tools such as digging sticks.

The mangrove ecosystem in Rufiji delta also provides a shelter, breeding grounds and food living for many iconic species, ranging from fish, shellfish, migratory waterbirds many of which are in flight from the European winter, sea turtles nesting on beaches secured by mangrove roots, crabs and shrimp that thrive in mangrove shallows.

Villagers also rely heavily on the mangroves for their medicinal value. Ashes, leaves or bark infusions of certain species are usually applied to cure skin disorders, marine stings sores, headaches, snake bites among others. Rufiji is a mangrove hub with a rich biodiversity and is undoubtedly indispensable for the community living here, but unfortunately, despite the huge value of mangroves in the Rufiji delta, they are being heavily exploited and degraded. Some of the causes of mangrove loss and degradation range from agricultural developments for rice and overexploitation for poles and timber, in the absence of alternative income sources. On top of this, the effects of human-induced climate change also loom.

Wetlands International is working in the Delta to address these challenges through the Mangrove Capital Africa programme funded by DOB ecology not only to improve the livelihoods of the people but also to conserve the mangrove pride of Africa, starting in the Rufiji Delta.  The programme’s current focus is on the development of a sound knowledge base. Ecological, hydrological, socio-economic baseline studies are underway and will be used to inform various interventions that include the revision of the National Mangrove Management Plan of Tanzania with an initial focus on Rufiji Delta as well as various field interventions that include mangrove planting and alternative income generating activities: Mangrove Capital Africa envisions to empower the women and children by raising awareness on the value of mangroves, and by helping them start other enterprises like honey production. We are also keen to work together to identify better markets for their products and be able to increase their profit margins. To protect the community from frequent floods, as well as increase the number of breeding sites for fish and migratory birds, the Programme will support interventions around conservation of mangroves in degraded areas  Other studies that are underway are an analysis of the legal, policy and institutional framework for mangroves conservation and management and a stakeholder mapping and analysis.

Mangrove Capital Africa is a 10-year programme whose vision is: Mangroves and their biodiversity are healthy, improving the livelihoods of millions of people and protecting them against the dangers of climate change and targets the coasts of East and West Africa.

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