Mangrove replanting efforts often fail, for many reasons. Benjamin Thompson analyzes the institutional factors behind this issue and proposes how the cycle of failure can be broken. In a paper on ‘The political ecology of mangrove forest restoration in Thailand: Institutional arrangements and power dynamics’, published in the journal Land Use Policy, he draws lessons from two projects at Samut Sakhon and Chumpon in Thailand.
Thailand has strong national policies that support mangrove restoration. The policy framework for mangroves was created through the country’s 1992 Reforestation Act that encouraged companies to fund reforestation through their corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities, the establishment of a department specifically for marine and coastal restoration (which has a counterpart in marine and coastal protection) and the more recent ‘Get Back Forest’ policy to relocate communities and replant forests. Thailand’s National Economic and Social Development Plans have also set specific targets to increase mangrove coverage.
However, in common with other Southeast Asian countries, mangrove restoration efforts in Thailand do not always take into account ecological factors. For example, species may be planted at a location to which they are not suited, and replanting projects may overlook the need to support biological diversity.
Thompson’s research delves into the reasons why. He found that, although the relevant government department faced “pressure to plant”, it did not have the budget allocation or human resources to implement adequate replanting. This led to government reliance on corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives to provide the necessary funds, with the labor being carried out by local residents. While effective in terms of achieving wide replanting coverage, this approach has also led to reporting of “false successes” that focus on the area replanted, rather than on long-term monitoring of seedling survival rate.
At the two project sites studied, the author found that the company providing CSR support for mangrove restoration has learned from past experience and no longer supports one-day events. Instead, a five-year Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the government department and local community at the replanting site has enabled long-term cooperation. Taking this long-term approach has enabled replanting efforts to draw on local knowledge about the terrain and conditions, ensure monitoring and after-care of seedlings, and establish village-specific rules about mangrove management. The approach may also enable the beginning of payments for ecosystem services (PES) to local residents involved in mangrove management.
Thailand’s experience provides lessons for mangrove rehabilitation efforts in other countries too. Thompson argues that to be successful, mangrove rehabilitation must be supported through long-term institutional arrangements that foster collaboration and cooperation among all actors. Such arrangements, he notes, can also reduce the potential imbalance of power between governments and large corporations so that replanting is supported by proper site selection, technical assessments and evaluation—essential parts of any replanting project that tend to be overlooked by CSR projects.
Read the full paper here: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landusepol.2018.07.016
 Source: Thompson, B. S. (2018). The political ecology of mangrove forest restoration in Thailand: Institutional arrangements and power dynamics. Land Use Policy, 78, 503-514.
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