The Viet Nam Red Cross has successfully piloted a mangrove planting programme along their coastal areas of the Thai Binh province. The Mangrove Plantation and Disaster Risk Reduction Project was created to reduce the adverse impact of climate change upon and improve the lives and livelihoods of local communities. The nature of the project essentially protects sea dykes (a manmade structure designed to protect lower areas from rising sea water) and livelihoods while reducing the impact of typhoons.
After seeing success, Viet Nam Red Cross scaled up its efforts on the programme to eight of their coastal provinces; Ha Tinh, Hai Phong, Nam Dinh, Nghe An, Ninh Binh, Quang Ninh, Thai Binh, and Thanh Hoa.
Groundwork for this project included Viet Nam Red Cross working together with their local government and communities to select appropriate planting areas, mapping, getting common agreements of 15 years at least (the shortest life-cycle for mangroves), and mobilizing community participation and experts for mangrove plantation and protection. Viet Nam Red Cross and other partners advocated with policy makers and communities to improve forest laws and issue specific legal documents of mangrove and coastal forest management.
With a coastline of 3,260 km, the Vietnamese peninsula was once home to 408,500 hectares of mangroves -among the most productive and biologically important ecosystems of the world; providing habitat/nursing grounds for fish species, food, medicine, building materials/fuel for local communities, as well as carbon storage (blue carbon) and coastal protection from storm events.
Over the past few decades, Vietnam lost about 60% of its mangrove forests largely due to war, natural causes, conversion to rice fields, aquaculture and urban development. This increased the exposure of coastal infrastructure and livelihoods to typhoons and storm surges, which damaged sea dykes, aquaculture and rice farms along the coastline and led to sea water intrusion into rice fields and aquaculture areas.
Their efforts continued for over 20 years. The mangroves that were planted and protected by Viet Nam Red Cross and local communities have grown to cover approximately 9,000 hectares in nearly 100 coastal communities. In the period 1999-2013, the mangrove area in Vietnam increased by about 6.4% due to the contribution by the Mangrove Plantation and Disaster Risk Reduction Project. (Source: Vietnam Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development 2014).
All Viet Nam Red Cross chapters and communities continue to take care of their mangroves and are seeing tangible benefits in terms of the natural environment, the economy and ecological health. Mature mangroves prevent sea water from coming in over the sea dykes, therefore also preventing salt-water intrusion in aquaculture and rice fields, which can adversely affect rice farming for several years. Three years after the initial planting, the protective effects of mangroves were already visible through a reduction in the damage to sea dykes (which are valued at USD1,000 per metre) from typhoons and ocean waves.
The Mangrove Plantation and Disaster Risk Reduction Project directly benefited an estimated 190,455 people. In each community where mangroves exist, it directly contributes to the livelihoods of about 150 to 250 people collecting aquaculture products and non-timber products. Improvement in livelihoods are notable; with yields from collecting marine species having increased by up to 57.2%. Household surveys in 2015 showed that the average income had gone up to VND179,000 (equivalent to USD6.50)/person/day or VND3,580,000/person/month (equivalent to USD159/person/month).
The World Bank (2014) estimated that from the 8,313ha of mangrove that was planted under the progamme, around USD370million worth of CO2 emissions were absorbed every year.
Mangrove Plantation and Disaster Risk Reduction Project of Viet Nam Red Cross is a clear success in using mangrove plantations to reduce the adverse impact of climate change upon and improve the lives and livelihoods of local communities.