The role of villagers along Guyana’s densely populated coastland in planting and protecting mangroves as a natural sea defence mechanism on Thursday received a major boost at a one-day, training and capacity building exercise.
The Government Information Agency (GINA) reported that the Village Mangrove Action Committees (VMACs) are set up to ensure the success of the mangrove protection and restoration programme. The training workshop was organised by the Guyana Mangrove Restoration Project (GMRP) in collaboration with the Office of Climate Change (OCC,).
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Agricultural Research Institute Dr. Oudho Homenauth, Head, European Union (EU), Ambassador Robert Kopecky and Head, OCC Shyam Nokta opened the session Thursday morning at the Mangrove Visitors’ Centre at Cove and John, East Coast Demerara.
The workshop was aimed at providing the members of the VMACs with better knowledge, understanding and awareness of the existing and potential climate change impact in Guyana.
It also involved providing information on the elements of Low Carbon Development, the Guyana-Norway partnership, the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDs) projects and more importantly, the role of mangroves in mitigation and adaptation to climate change.
The GMRP had established six VMACs, in recognition of the fact, that critical to the success of maintaining the remaining mangroves in Guyana is the involvement of communities where there are mangrove sites or where the plants are vulnerable. The mandate of the VMACs is to collaborate with the GMRP, and promote the restoration and protection of mangroves at the level of the community.
During today’s exercise, Dr. Homenauth explained that this was the first of many such activities planned for the empowerment of the VMACs, which remain critical to the mangrove restoration process. He said that there will be other sessions, in other communities.
Dr. Homenauth announced too, plans to increase the number of VMACs along the coast. He advised that a group is to be established in Essequibo, Region Two and another in Leguan, Region Three.
Ambassador Kopecky echoed Dr. Homenauth’s sentiments about the importance of the VMACs. “As the Village Mangrove Action Committees you all have a very important role to play, especially as there is a personal attachment due to being residents in the area. By protecting mangroves, you are indirectly protecting your own future, Guyana, and the planet in helping to mitigate the effects of climate change,” he said.
The Ambassador explained that because of mangroves’ importance in the fight against climate change, the project is a favourite of his.
“I consider that mangroves are like the kings and queens of carbon dioxide storage. Mangroves store about two to four times what tropical rainforests store because they lie in locations where their roots are often covered with sea water. They absorb about 120,000 tons of carbon every year and can also absorb 70 to 90 percent of wave energy generated by ocean waves. Without these mangroves to protect us from the ocean, many communities would suffer recurrent flooding given that much of Guyana’s coastland is below sea level,” he said.
Kopecky also spoke to the issue of climate change and expressed the EU’s deep commitment to tackling this issue both locally and internationally.
He said also that all Guyanese citizens should be proud of their country’s LCDS, which is a ‘world class initiative to mitigate climate change.’
Nokta also emphasised the importance of mangroves and the importance of protecting them but, honed in mostly on the alarming effects of climate change, and the need to prepare now to live in a climate change environment.
Nokta said that at present, the world is on a path that will take it to four degrees rise in temperature at the end of the century. He said also that estimates are showing that there is a two to three- foot rise in sea level.
These figures are important because, Nokta explained that the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change in its last assessment said that if the world starts to exceed two degrees rise in global temperature, then it is headed on a pathway to catastrophic climate change.
“Already we are seeing what these impacts are likely to be. Can you image what will happen if we have a four degree rise and couple with that the extreme weather change?”
He explained that is why urgent action has to be taken, at all levels if countries are to address climate change and if they are going to work towards ensuring that the two -degree change is contained, and importantly, if people are going to adequately prepare to live with climate change.
“It means therefore not only do we have to take action at the international level towards reducing green house gases…but we also need to take action at home,” he said.
He said that in this regard, the LCDS is playing a very important role in helping to address deforestation, one of the critical issues for climate change. Nokta pointed out that 20 percent of green house gases come from deforestation.
He said if countries can get incentives to maintain their forest without compromising their legitimate development agenda, and their ability to create jobs, then avoiding deforestation can be one opportunity the global community can embrace in helping to tackle climate change.
Mangroves are critical to protecting Guyana from climate change. Not only does each hectare of mangrove prevents emission of 17 tons of carbon from the atmosphere, but they are critical as part of the sea defence.
The GMRP is funded by a partnership between the Government of Guyana and the EU to the tune of $1.1B, and is being implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture through NAREI. It complements and strengthens the ongoing sea defence projects which the EU funds.