Sunday was World Wetlands Day: Each year, February 2nd marks the date of the adoption of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, which was signed on February 2nd 1971 in Ramsar, Iran, and now comprises 162 countries as signatories. The Convention is an “intergovernmental treaty that embodies the commitments of its member countries to maintain the ecological character of their wetlands of international importance and to plan for the “wise use”, or sustainable use, of all of the wetlands in their territories.”
The annual World Wetlands Day aims to raise awareness about the importance and value of these natural ecosystems.
The collaborative partnership that started in 1998 between Danone, the Ramsar Convention and the IUCN led to the creation of the “Danone Fund for Nature” with ambitious objectives: to restore wetlands, re-develop local economies, and combat climate change and poverty. This evolved into the Livelihoods Fund, operational since 2011. The Livelihoods Fund provides its investors (Danone, Crédit Agricole, Schneider Electric, Hermès, SAP, La Poste, Voyageurs du Monde, CDC Climat and Firmenich) with a return of high-quality carbon offsets with strong social, economic and environmental impact. To date, more than 100 million trees have been replanted, contributing to increased food security for the local populations through the restoration of their ecosystems, their main source of sustenance.
Danone and the Ramsar Secretariat offers communication material for those who wish to help spread the word on wetlands. With its large-scale reforestation programmes and partnership with the Ramsar Convention, the Livelihoods Fund furthers Danone’s commitment to wetland protection.
Reforestation has strong social and environmental impacts
According to the Livelihoods Fund, wetlands are crucial for a number of reasons because: they “support people’s livelihoods”, “serve as important natural barriers to floods and cyclones” and create “reservoirs for fish, crabs, shrimps, and other important food sources for the local communities.” All the more reason for the Fund to support its three large-scale mangrove restoration projects in Senegal, India and Indonesia (see infographic).
The Livelihoods’ project in Casamance and Siné Saloum (Senegal), carried out with its local NGO partner Oceanium, has already planted 79 million trees over 10,000 hectares (ha). The Livelihoods project in the Sundarbans (India), at the mouth of the Ganges delta, carried out with its local NGO partner Nature Environment & Wildlife Society (NEWS), has already planted 16 million trees over 5,500 ha. The Livelihoods project in Sumatra (Indonesia), carried out with its local NGO partner Yagasu, has already planted 10 million trees over 3000 ha.
But beyond the impressive tree plantation figures are the strong social and environmental impacts that these projects deliver to the local communities. In Senegal, where mangrove estuaries are disappearing at an annual rate of 0.8%, the 200 000 people impacted by the Livelihoods’ project there are already seeing a vast improvement in their daily lives. Replanting mangrove forests protects arable land, since mangroves naturally filtrate saline water that renders the soil unfit for agriculture; restores rice paddies; and increases food supply and local revenues thanks to a boost in fish, crabs, shrimps, oysters, and mollusks stocks.
These positive effects are also experienced in India, where the Livelihoods’ replantation programme affects the lives of 250 000 people living in the archipelago of the Sundarbans, which experiences sea-level rise faster than anywhere else on Earth: “the Sundarbans have already lost more than 28% of its land in the past 40 years due to global warming.” The restoration of mangrove forests will help protect the local communities against life-threatening floods and cyclones, along with restoring arable land and increasing food supply and revenues.
The third project is being carried out in Indonesia, a country faced with massive deforestation issues (the country was named the 3rd largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world by the World Bank in 2007). With its 17 000 islands, Indonesia is also particularly vulnerable to climate change, sea-level rise and natural disasters. Replanting coastal mangroves there will thus assure more security for the local populations in the event of a tsunami, restore arable land that has been previously damaged by intensive shrimp farming and generate new sources of economic activity for the villagers who can sell the various by-products of the mangroves (batik dye, honey, etc.).
To date, 470,000 people have already benefited from the Livelihoods’ projects (200 000 people in Senegal, 250,000 in India and 20,000 in Indonesia).. For the Livelihoods Fund, World Wetlands Day is not just an annual event- it’s celebrated every day of the year!Photo © Jean-François Hellio, Livelihoods