Restoring abandoned fishponds in Cagwait, Surigao del Sur

Mangroves are a salt-tolerant plant that occurs within the coastal belt. They are among the most productive ecosystems on earth. It is known for its numerous ecosystem services critical to environmental health and human well-being. Mangroves have great potential to lessen the adverse effects of climate change and mitigate the harm natural coastal hazards cause to property and human lives. Furthermore, mangroves have an even greater capacity than tropical forests to absorb and sequester greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

Due to overexploitation, mangroves in the country have decreased rapidly despite the ecosystem services offered. Human exploitation and conversion of natural ecosystems, such as aquaculture development, is one of the causes of the widespread loss and degradation, with associated declines in biodiversity and ecosystem services provision. Thus, the rehabilitation of abandoned aquaculture lands is needed to reduce the ecological losses derived from these land-use changes. 

In order to acquire a holistic understanding of the environmental and social conditions of Cagwait, Oceanus conducted an assessment last November 2021. The field assessment shows that the municipality has 185 hectares of mangrove forest— out of 3.8 ha of abandoned fishponds in Barangay Poblacion, only 1.3 hectares can be reverted to mangrove forest due to the expired Fishpond Lease Agreement (FLA). 

Oceanus Conservation has partnered with the local government unit of Cagwait and the Poblacion Fisherfolks Association in Cagwait, Surigao del Sur, to employ a biophysical approach to mangrove restoration. This approach assesses the restoration site’s tidal, soil, and environmental conditions and then adjusts mangrove outplanting methods to match the ecosystem’s needs. Community members were also actively involved in planting mangroves. As of January 2024, we have planted 2,746 seedlings in Poblacion since May 2023 using the mound planting method. Recent monitoring found that the survival rate of planted seedlings was 63.80% after several months. 

Oceanus Conservation and peoples’ organizations employed the mound planting technique for their mangrove restoration project in Poblacion, Cagwait, and Surigao del Sur.

Active community members worked together to raise the soil elevation before planting to ensure the survival of the mangrove seedlings.

The biophysical approach to mangrove restoration will be a game-changer in Cagwait because indigenous knowledge and scientific practices are thoughtfully combined, and Oceanus shares its best practices. If the strategy is effective and collaborations successfully implemented, mangrove forest cover in Cagwait will be significantly enhanced in the upcoming years. This increased cover will enhance the livelihoods of coastal communities, and Cagwait will also be more resilient to climate change.