Mangrove protection

Mercedes-Benz supports the Global Nature Fund

Mangrove conservation.

In India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, Mercedes-Benz supports the international environmental foundation Global Nature Fund with donations in its commitment to one of the most important ecosystems on earth: Mangrove forests.

Like a green ribbon, these line the flat coasts of tropical and subtropical seas between 30 degrees south and north latitude. Mangroves act as a bulwark against storms and tides that constantly gnaw away at the mainland, protecting the narrow coastal strip and settlements and fields behind it.

Up to 50 different tree species of a mangrove forest all have special adaptation strategies to thrive in the salt water of the intertidal zone. With their dense, stilt-like roots, the mangrove trees consolidate the coastal areas. In addition, the root system forms a species-rich habitat for countless fish, molluscs and crustacean species. Moreover, mangroves are indispensable in the fight against climate change because they store more carbon than any other forest: up to 1000 tonnes per hectare. Furthermore, the sustainable use of mangrove forests forms the livelihood of millions of people living in shallow coastal areas. Mercedes-Benz supports the Global Nature Fund, as the programme also promotes ecological sustainability and in this way reflects essential elements of the corporate citizenship strategy.

The "beautiful forest" as a lighthouse region

With the Global Nature Fund (GNF), Mercedes-Benz supports an environmental protection organisation that has been working for the protection and reforestation of mangroves since 2004. In addition to initial successes in Sri Lanka, the GNF has already achieved progress in India and Bangladesh. There, the GNF implements the cross-border project "Sustainable Aquaculture in Mangrove Ecosystems" (SAIME). The project area is the Sundarbans (Bengali for "beautiful forest"), the largest contiguous mangrove area on earth in the delta of the Ganges River. The Sundarbans ecosystem stretches from the eastern coast of India to Bangladesh and is home to the last wild Bengal tigers.

Within the framework of SAIME and supported by Mercedes-Benz, the GNF promotes pilot farms in the Sundarbans to establish Integrated Mangrove Aquaculture, which contributes to counteract deforestation for new aquaculture ponds: Small farmers plant mangrove seedlings directly in the shrimp ponds. In this way, a wide range of synergy effects can be exploited: The mangrove trees stabilise the embankments, protect the ponds from flood events and provide shade. The shrimps thrive in the root system and use falling leaves as food. At the same time, biodiversity increases on the pilot farms. The farms of small farmers thus also become more resilient to the effects of sea-level rise and global warming. They enable the generation of an intergenerational income.

Mangroves. Photo: Global Nature Fund.
Mangroves. Photo: Global Nature Fund.

Significant successes thanks to sustainable aquaculture

The small farmers in the region teach each other the practical methods on the farms – a knowledge transfer that is an essential part of an overall strategy to reforest destroyed coastal strips with mangroves and thus permanently stabilise them in harmony with the shrimp ponds.

The GNF places special emphasis on creating alternative income opportunities for the local population. Diversification increases their economic resilience. A good example of this is the promotion of the production and marketing of high-quality mangrove honey. The bees find ideal habitats for their hives in the tree trunks, and local collectors, the so-called Mowals, collect this honey and market it together through a local cooperative. The GNF has supported this cooperative in establishing a modern production and distribution infrastructure. This not only contributes to securing the livelihood of the local population, but also creates identification with the issue of mangrove conservation in the local markets.

Finally, the empowerment of women's groups also plays a central role in the ecological restoration of the mangrove forests in the project region: Within the framework of a so-called mangrove steward programme, the GNF supports women in developing additional income opportunities such as mushroom or poultry farming. This provides them with additional income and, in the long term, more rights of co-determination in village decision-making – and at the same time protects the precious mangrove ecosystem.

Mangroves. Photo: Global Nature Fund.
Mangroves. Photo: Global Nature Fund.

Environmental education for a better future

Sustainable education is the key to a secure future in a world dominated by environmental problems. This is especially true in developing countries with a population structure dominated by young people. Environmental education therefore plays a major role in the GNF's projects. In several GNF projects, environmental education centres, such as in Ambalangoda in Sri Lanka, have already been established and promoted. The current course offerings are diverse: Children and youngsters are taught in "floating classrooms" or the local population is trained in vegetable cultivation and ecotourism. Technical projects are also implemented at the environmental centre: More than 300 solar lamps have been developed, tested and built and replace the paraffin lamps of the fishermen at Lake Maduganga. With the help of Mercedes-Benz, the GNF is able to extend and expand the centre's reach beyond the region in the current projects. The increasing demand for education and approaches to solutions shows the growing importance of this exemplary education initiative.