MAP’s work began in the early 1990s in response to a massive expansion of shrimp farms across Southern and Southeast Asia. They began to build a network to coordinate advocacy and efforts to counter some of the negative impacts of this destructive industry. Starting in India, they subsequently expanded their range to work in other countries with important mangrove habitats around the world. As they grew, their role and approach began to evolve, eventually becoming today’s five-pronged approach which includes networking, advocacy, education, conservation and restoration, an approach which places sustainable community-based development at its heart.
A typical approach to restoring or rehabilitating damaged areas of forest or mangrove is to go in for mass planting of (usually) a single species of mangrove. While this may be of some benefit, it does not restore the biodiversity of the ecosystem. MAP uses an approach called CBEMR – Community Based Ecological Mangrove Restoration.
Two key concepts underpin this approach: Firstly, in order for a project to be successful, it must involve the community at all stages and levels of the process.
This is not just for the physical work of preparation and planting, but from the outset finding out what the community needs, what works for them and to what extent they can and want to help and be involved.
Secondly, mangrove restoration takes time, and where possible the work should be done by nature.
In other words, you need to focus on and understand the features – e.g. the hydrology and topography – which allow for a healthy mangrove, and attempt to recreate these conditions before letting nature take its course. There may need to be some small-scale planting, but in order for a truly bio-diverse ecosystem to be restored, the ultimate aim for MAP projects and the community is to recreate the conditions in which nature can flourish. This is where the research and expertise of MAP staff, combined with local knowledge and community involvement can contribute to lasting and meaningful regeneration of the environment.