Ecology Programmes Mangrove Capital Africa

They provide millions of people with food, clean water and raw materials. Healthy mangroves harbour many iconic species, such as manatees, sea turtles and millions of migratory birds. These unique wetlands act as buffers against storms, tsunamis and sea-level rise, making them vital for coastal communities threatened by climate change.


And yet, despite their huge value to society, Africa’s mangroves are facing dramatic challenges. Causes of mangrove loss and degradation range from agriculture developments for rice and large-scale irrigation schemes, to oil and gas exploitation and bauxite mining. Ill-planned infrastructure developments or ports, harbours and cities add to the pressures. Vulnerable local communities, who depend on mangroves for their livelihoods, end up overexploiting them for fish smoking and timber extraction in the absence of alternative income sources. Moreover, the effects of human-induced climate change also loom.


The Mangrove Capital Africa programme started in 2017 with the aim of conserving and rehabilitating mangroves and their biodiversity, improving livelihoods and protecting them against the dangers of climate change. The programme targets the coasts of both East and West Africa, initially focusing on the Saloum Delta in Senegal and the Rufiji Delta in Tanzania, with the ambition of scaling up to other countries. During its first phase (2017-2019), the programme reached thousands of people, initiated conservation measures across tens of thousands of hectares and mobilised communities for mangrove conservation. The second phase (2019-2021) will strengthen the achievements in the Saloum and Rufiji Deltas and initiate preparations for upscaling to other countries.

Saloum Delta – Senegal

The Saloum Delta is a biodiversity-rich mangrove ecosystem on Senegal’s Atlantic coast. More than 100.000 people depend on the delta’s extensive mangroves for their livelihoods. They share this habitat with hundreds of thousands of birds, dolphins, the West Africa manatee and sea turtle species such as leatherbacks, loggerheads and green turtles.

Mangrove Capital Africa focused the first phase of its programme in the Saloum Delta on supporting community-based natural resource management, providing thousands of people with alternative livelihoods opportunities and involving them in a range of conservation measures, including mangrove restoration. As a result, 35.000 ha of mangroves improved their conservation status, and 195 ha were fully restored. In addition, 11.032 people are now benefitting from alternative livelihood sources – sustainable oyster harvesting, mangrove honey production, home gardening – thus, decreasing the pressure on mangrove resources.

The second phase will further consolidate its conservation and restoration work and expand to the Niumi Delta and Casamance. It will assist communities to get access to markets for key mangrove commodities such as honey and oysters. Furthermore, the programme will open dialogues with government and corporates with the purpose of avoiding and minimising the negative impacts on mangroves of planned oil and gas infrastructure projects.

Rufiji Delta – Tanzania

With an area of almost 597.000ha, the Rufiji Delta hosts East Africa’s largest concentration of mangroves and is designated part of the Rufiji-Mafia-Kilwa marine Ramsar site. It supports a wide diversity of flora and fauna including many migratory birds that rely on the delta for stopovers and overwintering. Around 42.000 people live in the Delta, and they depend principally on agriculture – growing rice, sorghum, millet and cassava – seaweed farming, fishing, fish processing, as well as tourism and handicrafts.

The first phase of the Mangrove Capital Africa programme was focused on preparing the ground for starting with the conservation, restoration and livelihoods activities, by undertaking a comprehensive field assessment, building stakeholder networks and training local NGOs. These preparations will enable a rapid start of field activities in the second phase of the programme. They will start with mangrove conservation and restoration, and activities to support the livelihoods of communities. Another part will be focused on informing large-scale infrastructure development. The programme will explore management regimes for the Stiegler’s dam to ensure sustenance of a healthy freshwater flow to the Rufiji delta, and explore alternative designs for planned harbour infrastructure, to minimize impact on the delta through informed studies.

Healthy mangroves will support climate adaptation, by reducing erosion, saline intrusion, storm damage and other climate-change impacts. Meanwhile, better management practices will enable mangroves themselves to adapt to climate change by allowing them to migrate inland as sea-levels rise. Most of all, this programme will help safeguard mangrove capital for nature and people.

The programme Mangrove Capital Africa is led by Wetlands International Africa

Key features

Landscape  Saloum Delta (Senegal) – 73.000 ha
  Rufiji Delta (Tanzania) – 597.000 ha
Goals for the next 2 years  
Saloum Delta, Senegal  50.000 ha of mangroves improve their conservation status
  600 ha of mangroves restored
  16.000 people with improved livelihoods
Rufiji Delta, Tanzania  25.000 ha of mangroves improve their conservation status
  200 ha of mangroves restored
  1.000 people with improved livelihoods