Only One members fund the restoration of 800,000 mangrove trees in the Saloum Delta, Senegal.
The project protects a UNESCO World Heritage site, supports the livelihoods of over 40 local communities and thousands of people, and reverses the decline of marine habitats.
Since 1980, Senegal has lost around a third of its ocean trees, which is why the Saloum Delta remains a critical area for mangrove restoration and responsible, community-based ecosystem management.
Our mangrove restoration partner Wetlands International Africa is part of the only global nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation and restoration of wetlands, pioneering local initiatives to safeguard wetlands for West African communities.
How the project works
Wetlands International Africa builds relationships with local communities wanting to restore their mangrove forest.
Instead of focusing solely on mangrove planting (though this is important, too!), Wetlands International Africa works to restore underlying hydrology like the mixing of saltwater and freshwater so that the mangroves regenerate naturally, leading to true ecosystem restoration with richer biodiversity.
Coastal communities contribute to the mangrove restoration efforts, and in return, they are empowered to develop alternative livelihoods and to sustainably use mangrove products like oysters.
Wetlands International combines their ocean forest management with awareness raising through environmental education activities on the importance of mangrove conservation and restoration to prevent further degradation.
All projects on Only One help save the ocean and fix the climate, and 100% of our members’ funds go to impact. Keep reading to discover how our “Advancing community-based mangrove restoration in Senegal” project is having a positive effect.
Biodiversity and ecosystems
Located on the Atlantic coast of Africa, about 150 kilometers from the capital of Senegal, Dakar, the Saloum Delta is home to a richly diverse mangrove ecosystem. The river delta is made up of hundreds of islands covered mainly in forests of mangroves: ocean trees and shrubs found where the tide meets the shore in tropical and subtropical areas, which support remarkable biodiversity and help regulate the global climate.
The mangrove restoration site funded by Only One members crosses over into three marine protected areas (MPAs) — Gandoul, Sangomar, and Palmarin — which include around 30,000 hectares of mangrove forest and support over 27,000 local people from the islands. As well as nourishing mangrove ecosystems, this project conserves lush beds of seagrass, a marine power-plant accounting for up to 18% of carbon storage in the ocean while covering just 0.2% of the seafloor.
The Sine Saloum estuary contains a wealth of diverse fauna. Over 110 fish species have been recorded, and it was ranked sixth in the world in 1996 for fish species diversity. The river delta also provides a habitat for roughly 400 types of migratory bird, including the largest nesting colony of royal terns on the planet and the swamp-loving pink-backed pelican.
Because of how valuable the Saloum Delta’s biodiversity and ecosystems are, Wetlands International Africa’s project could not be more important — and the same therefore goes for Only One members’ support 💙 The mangrove ecosystem is faced with numerous challenges, including overexploitation of resources like fish and timber, declining freshwater flows, sedimentation, and climate change. Our partner’s team has worked with local communities, NGOs, and the government for many years to implement science-backed solutions to help save the Saloum Delta’s mangrove forests.
Several mammals observed in the Saloum Delta are under threat, including the vulnerable West African manatee and the critically endangered Atlantic humpback dolphin — with only 1,500 adults left, it could become the first dolphin species to be hunted to extinction, so protecting the shallow waters where it lives on the West African coast is critical. The mangrove swamps are also a vital breeding habitat for the endangered green sea turtle.
The Sine-Saloum Delta Reserve (SSDR), formed by the convergence of two rivers, consists of a rich habitat full of cultural history. A UNESCO World Heritage site since 2011, its brackish channels encompass over 200 islands and islets and expansive mangrove forests, along with 218 shell mounds, recognized as prehistoric refuse heaps. These well-preserved mounds, some of which are an impressive several hundred meters long, were created by humans as far back as 2,000 years ago, and testify to very ancient sustainable socioeconomic practices in West Africa.
On the islands and along the coast, the primary economic activities include fishing and the gathering of cockles and oysters (species supported by the prop roots of the Rhizophora mangrove trees), and agriculture and animal husbandry are also practiced. Interactions of this kind between nature and the local human population have existed in the Sine-Saloum region for centuries.
Our partner’s Community-Based Ecological Mangrove Restoration (CBEMR) methodology empowers Senegalese communities to restore and steward the mangrove forests while offering sustainable coastal livelihoods. By bringing these communities in as leaders of the restoration project from the outset, Wetlands International Africa ensures that they are fully involved in resolving environmental, social, and economic challenges in the area where they live. The Saloum Delta’s mangrove forest provides sustenance to over 100,000 local people, and protects the shoreline from soil erosion and storm surges.
This project has a dual focus on ecological restoration and raising awareness about the importance of mangrove conservation to prevent degradation. Wetlands International Africa has trained teachers to educate youth through environmental clubs, combining theoretical knowledge with practical fieldwork. As a result, students can now become mangrove advocates within their families and communities. Under the supervision of teachers, approximately 50 clubs will be established, benefiting over 2,000 students. In August 2022, the village of Toubacouta hosted an inaugural holiday camp, engaging 40 young people in hands-on learning activities for the preservation of mangroves. Our partner’s team has also extended its efforts to radio broadcasting, disseminating conservation information across the Saloum Delta.
Women play a crucial role in the mangrove ecosystem, specifically in seafood collection for sustenance and income. Wetlands International Africa has provided support to these women as part of the restoration project, leading them to organize themselves into savings and credit cooperatives, with each cooperative consisting of 25 members. These groups are responsible for managing their own contributions for savings and granting loans to members for small businesses that contribute to their daily livelihoods. Wetlands International Africa conducts training sessions and provides necessary equipment to support the administration of these cooperatives, ensuring long-term sustainability.
Alongside the vast number of community members working on this project, Wetlands International Africa’s team based in Senegal runs a highly impactful program supported by Only One members and led by local employees.
Yakhya Guèye leads the project in the field as Junior Project Manager, and has several years of mangrove restoration experience, while Aby Diallo joined the team as Communications Associate in 2022. Yakhya and Aby work in tandem with two “touchpoints” from the local community, Babacar Thior and Diène Diokh, who play a key role in monitoring mangrove forest health. The staff on the ground are supported by Wetlands International Africa’s Dakar office covering project management, as well as impact reporting and communications.
This project takes ecological nuances into account and addresses the problems of monoculture planting (namely, its lack of biodiversity) by restoring two species of mangrove local to the Saloum Delta to promote natural regeneration: Rhizophora and Avicennia, in particular, Rhizophora mangle, Rhizophora racemosa, and Avicennia africana. The Rhizophora genus is our partner’s most used species owing to its progragules’ ready availability, and suitability for the low-salinity region.
Rhizophora mangroves cover an overwhelming 90% of the restoration site, with Avicennia present to some extent, and small areas colonized by Laguncularia and Conocarpus. In general, the Rhizophora species are distributed at a lower elevation in parts of the tidal zone which are flooded for long periods of time, while Avicennia is found at a higher elevation in the upper parts which are flooded irregularly.
Sustainable Development Goals
By supporting the “Advancing community-based mangrove restoration in Senegal” project, Only One members’ funds go toward these 3 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Wetlands International Africa will send Only One detailed and timely reports on how the mangrove restoration project is progressing. Their team also sends us new photos and videos from site visits. Explore our project implementation reports in our Impact Dashboard, or dive straight into the latest from Wetlands International Africa here. Their next report, on ecological and socioeconomic co-benefits specifically, will be shared with Only One later in 2023.
More about our mangrove restoration partner
Our mangrove restoration partner Wetlands International Africa is part of the only global nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation and restoration of wetlands, pioneering local initiatives to safeguard wetlands for West African communities, and nurturing expansive, dynamic landscapes and natural resources. Working closely with the communities most connected to and impacted by wetlands, they develop and mobilize local knowledge on the ground, using real-life evidence to advocate for better policy and outcomes for ecosystems.