Mangrove seedling in SenegalA mangrove seedling planted in the Saloum Delta in Senegal.Atlantic Rising

“Become a superhero, plant your mangrove today,” declared the poster.

Eager to enter the pantheon of mangrove superheroes, we headed to the Saloum Delta in Senegal where the world’s largest mangrove planting project is underway. Organized by local NGO, Oceanium, almost 30 million mangroves have been planted since June.

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The mangrove is a hero among flora. It provides firewood for cooking and smoking fish, branches for building rooftops, and breeding grounds for countless species of fish, including oysters that cling stubbornly to the mangroves’ spider-like roots.

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planting mangroves in senegalMangroves are an important ecosystem anchor for coastal tidelands in the tropics.Atlantic RisingAbdoulaye Diouf, Chef de Zone in Sandicoly, tells us that the fishermen had noticed a decline in the number of fish in recent years. This was attributed to over-fishing and a decline in mangrove coverage caused by unseasonal heavy rains.

As well as replenishing depleted mangrove stocks, Jean Goepp, Oceanium’s project coordinator, says that the project teaches people to conserve their resources. “People must re-plant their common resources, not just their gardens”, he says. Mr Diouf says the village is now aware that it must use all its resources sustainably – the sea, forest, and mangroves.

The mangroves were chosen as the resource to launch this behaviour-changing initiative because once planted they require no human input. Occupying the swampy inter-tidal zone, they require no watering and are naturally protected from bush fires and hungry cattle.

Eighty-thousand people have been involved in the project, planting and collecting seedlings from the flowering mangrove trees for which they are paid 1,000 CFA (about $2.50) per sack. Oceanium provides a financial incentive to the community as well.

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Planting is simple. You create a hole in the wet swampy sand with an extended index finger and plug it with a seedling. Hey presto, you’re a superhero.

In Sandicoly, the project has been accompanied by soccer success and the village is through to the regional cup final. They plan to use the mangrove money to take their supporters to the match. It will be ice creams all round as mangrove superheroes cheer on soccer superstars.