Shoes were abandoned on the sideline as people waded into the mud and shallows – the mission was much more important than worrying about dirty feet.
The local activity took place as part of a larger mangrove planting and marine exhibition under ActionAid Cambodia’s 100,000 Mangroves campaign, supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) under the project ‘Strengthening Climate Information and Early Warning Systems in Cambodia’. The campaign aims to plant 100,000 mangroves in eight community fisheries by May 2020 and raise awareness of the importance of marine ecosystems.
The day began with planting while in the evening a marine conservation concert offered children’s activities, videos, presentations and songs, and dance, all based around the integral role that marine life plays in the livelihood of everyday Cambodians.
Events were the result of a wide collaboration including the Fishery Administration and Provincial Department of Agriculture Kampot, Wild Earth Allies, ActionAid Cambodia, Children and Women Development Centre in Cambodia, SAMAKY, Building Community Voice, Marine Conservation Cambodia, Fisheries Action Coalition Team, and the private sector.
UNDP’s partnership with Action Aid has focused on empowering women through the development of local 'Women's Champions'. Participants work at the local level and have been trained in gender equality and disaster risk reduction, and played an important role in the mangrove planting event by organizing community engagement in the activities.
“Today I joined the event and I am very happy because this is my first time [planting mangroves] - I had a lot of fun. Mangrove trees are very important to my community because they help our local fishermen get more fish, and attract tourists – which helps boost our incomes." -- Ms. Mat Maro, Women's Champions from Kampot
The campaign comes after research suggests that 62% of mangrove cover in Kampot has been lost in recent years due to issues such as construction, tourism, and land-grabbing.
“I think mangrove trees are important for people living in coastal areas because they can prevent disasters such as strong winds and big waves. Second, mangrove trees provide shelter for many animals such as fish and crabs. Third, mangrove trees reduce air pollution and produce fresh air. Fourth, mangrove trees help attract more tourists to my community." Ms. Som Sorn, Women’s Champion from Kampot
The benefits that mangroves provide against the impacts of climate change and for ecological biodiversity are important, particularly in areas like Kampot where 3,500 families depend on fishing for their livelihood, making the protection of these ecosystems of upmost importance.
Activities such as the planting demonstrate how Sustainable Development Goals can simultaneously be addressed. In this case, women develop leadership skills in order to preserve marine environments so that disaster risk is reduced, contributing to SDG 5 (Gender Equality), SDG 13 (Climate Action) and SDG 14 (Life Below Water).
The project ‘Strengthening Climate Information and Early Warning Systems in Cambodia’, funded by the Global Environment Facility-Least Developed Countries Fund, aims to advance climate information and disaster early warning systems in Cambodia. For more information, see the project’s Twitter timeline here.