Mangrove restoration in Haiti moves up a gear

In the lead up to International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem on 26 July, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is running a series of stories on mangroves, and their impact on the environment and economies of countries across the world.


For most of the last 40 years, since Cyclone Allen struck in 1980, the Cahouane mangroves on Haiti’s southern coast have been overexploited and degraded.  By 2015, the mangrove’s bird species had all but disappeared due to snaring and theft, trees had been cut down for charcoal, and fish and shellfish stocks had plummeted.

However, thanks to a 2017-2019 Global Environment Facility-funded project implemented by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Haitian Ministries of Environment and Agriculture and partners, there has been a remarkable turnaround, with a significant return to the mangrove of birds, fish and crustaceans, including wild ducks, water hens, eels and tadpoles.

With the support of UNEP and local partners, the government declared nine marine protected areas along the south coast, including La Cahouane, in 2013.

Mangrove ecosystems are important for regulating natural processes and maintaining the biological diversity of coastal areas, say experts. Apart from being spawning grounds for fish, they mitigate storm surges and store twice as much carbon as rainforests, thus slowing global heating. In Haiti they are an important source of food for migratory birds. Haitians also benefit from mangrove honey, which keeps for a long time and is rich in vitamins.

Improving livelihoods

To reduce the overexploitation of natural resources, the project set about creating sustainable livelihoods with the development of agroforestry, beekeeping, cashew processing, aquaculture and sustainable fishing.

The aim was to promote environmental management and socio-economic conditions by boosting the capacities of the local population to develop and enforce rules for the exploitation of environmental resources.

The active involvement of local partners and community members was key. Local non-governmental organizations, like Pêche Artisanale et Développement Intégré (PADI) and Organisation pour la Réhabiliation de l’Environnement (ORE), are rooted in local communities, have a wealth of knowledge directly relevant to local needs, and are recognized as legitimate agents of development. Local government support was also very important.

“La Cahouane is subject to many environmental and climatic threats,” says Pierre Achille Jonas, technical facilitator of PADI, which works closely with the Haitian Ministry of Environment.