The Mangroves National Park

The Mangroves National Park

A unique asset searching for a management solution

Mangroves National Park provides an overall positive story: it is currently in good condition and the known threats should be manageable given the right approach. The real challenge is financing the solution.

Mangroves National Park is a protected area of 768 km2 in total, located at the mouth of the Congo River, in the territory of Moanda. The park is subdivided into 3 different areas; a coastal strip, a riverside land area and a number of mangrove islands. The mangrove islands are legally fully protected whilst the other areas are partially protected.

In the more accessible mainland areas, the limited numbers of small mangrove stands are under serious pressure and in many areas have already been illegally cut for fuelwood and charcoal. In the absence of a significant enforcement and replanting effort, these areas are expected to continue to degrade.

The larger and more remote Congo River section has also been impacted but is in overall much better condition. The habitat of several small islands is not ideal for land mammals; however monkeys were reported to have been present in the past until hunted to local extinction. Hippopotamus and manatees are also present; the latter is highly vulnerable to poaching for bushmeat.

The most serious threat to the habitat is mangrove cutting for the charcoal trade. A key feature of the Congo River section is the size of the mangroves, they grow to a height of 20m and a diameter of up to 500mm, with aerial roots up to 10m long. As such they unfortunately present a real commercial opportunity for the charcoal trade. The UNEP-MENCT visit on 31st July 2009 sighted 3 operating artisanal charcoal kilns within a 1 hour tour of the park: the actual number is expected to be well over this figure.

Several villages are present within the mangroves islands and a large population is present in the mainland areas. The main source of livelihood for the island residents is seafood/river produce, particularly freshwater clams which are present in great numbers. Charcoal production is acknowledged as illegal and/or damaging by the residents but is one of the few options for earning income.
 
The Park is presently not managed at all in terms of enforcement of regulations. An ICCN representative is present, but has no budget or transport. In 2008 WWF in partnership with, a local NGO called ACODES started a management project in the park. Early activities include development of concepts and support facilities for ecotourism, awareness raising and reforestation activities

It is anticipated that environmental awareness raising and proactive patrolling will produce some results: however a permanent solution depends upon finding a cash generating alternative to charcoal production and/or reducing the population in the mangrove islands. This is a real challenge as the islands have negligible job opportunities and being legally protected cannot for example be cleared for agriculture.

A potentially viable solution is to move the charcoal trade onto the mainland via development of woodlots on the savannah using fast growing acacia. The key obstacle noted by WWF is financing the start up of this effort.

All involved in the park mention the hope of ecotourism providing the income needed to compete with the charcoal trade. In the opinion of UNEP, ecotourism may well occur given several years of promotion and support activities and this is a highly positive initiative; however this is anticipated to be on a small scale and will not cover the running costs of the park or proactive investments such as the woodlots.

The remaining financing options all rely on subsidisation, either by the state or by international conservation partners such as WWF working with international donors. A potential donor is the oil company Perenco, which already effectively supports the adjacent town of Moanda.

Recommendations:

1.    A financially conservative park management plan should be developed by ICCN with international support, by WWF and others. The plan should aim to drawdown the population and destructive activities within the most sensitive parts of the park in the long term through incentives – such as the provision of social services in Moanda, not in the park;
Cost: $0.1M to supplement WWF project scope Source of Finance: WWF/International Grant Duration: 1 year for plan development. Implementing agent: WWF-NGO-ICCN with MENCT and local government oversight.

2.    ICCN should place the park on a list of “loss making” protected areas that will need to be externally supported for the long term;
Cost: External subsidisation required in the order of $0.2M per annum. Source: International grant. Duration: Long term. Implementing agent: ICCN-NGO partners with MENCT and local government oversight.

3.    The profile of the park should be raised to assist in resource mobilisation and ecotourism generation.
Cost: $0.05M to supplement WWF project scope. Source: International grant. Duration: 1 year Implementing agent: WWF-NGO-ICCN partners with MENCT and local government oversight.

Further information and local partners(or here for the full list):

WWF Central Africa Regional Programme Office (CARPO)
Raymond Lumbuenamo
National Director
DRC Programme Office
14, Av. Sergent Moke
(Concession SAFRICAS)
Commune de Ngaliema
Kinshasa
Office: (+243) 99 891 3773
Fax: (+243) 81 261 0270
rlumbuenamo (at) wwfcarpo.org
www.panda.org

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