Five Countries Kick Off Community Seagrass Ecosystems Project

Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, and Timor-Leste launch an initiative to protect and restore critical seagrass ecosystems.

Representatives from Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, and Timor-Leste joined leading researchers and conservation experts to launch the Seagrass and Ecosystem Services Project, a new effort to protect and restore seagrass ecosystems through community-led activities.

Globally, seagrass ecosystems support nearly 3 billion people who rely on the services they provide for food, income, protection from extreme weather, and valuable cultural significance.

Seagrass areas are also hotspots for biodiversity and mitigate climate change by sequestering carbon at twice the rate of terrestrial forests.

However, these coastal ecosystems are fast disappearing due to several factors, including overfishing, coastal development and climate change.

The project will work closely with local communities in all five countries to identify sustainable strategies for protecting and restoring these crucial ecosystems. Initiatives will include monitoring and assessment programs, policy recommendations and new start-up businesses that enhance conservation.

The event took place 28-30 January 2020 in Manado, Indonesia, and was hosted by YAPEKA, a nonprofit conservation and community development organization, with support from the Indonesian Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries. YAPEKA Executive Director Akbar Ario Digdo explained that the project aligns with key priorities for local communities,

In Indonesia, our food security depends on the health of our seagrass,” Didgo said. “This project gives us an opportunity to work together with experts and regional networks to exchange knowledge about how to live in harmony with seagrass ecosystems. The clear tone of this project is community-based, focusing on participatory planning and incorporating traditional knowledge. We feel honored being chosen as the host for the official start of this important project.”

The event initiated the process of developing country-specific action plans, with meetings in each country scheduled to take place throughout the remainder of 2020 in collaboration with technical experts.

We will be introducing some exciting new approaches, such as using drones to monitor seagrass beds and helping local residents launch sustainable businesses like growing spirulina and developing homestay ecotourism companies,” said Project Manager Nick Piludu. “Most importantly, the project is designed to grow from local needs and priorities, so that each site in each country will have a plan that is tailored to them.”

The project is led by the CMS Dugong MOU Secretariat, which started planning the project in 2017. Dugong MOU is part of the CMS Office – Abu Dhabi, which is hosted by Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) and serves as the only regional hub for the Convention outside its headquarters in Bonn, Germany.

The project is part of the International Climate Initiative (IKI), supported by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) on the basis of a decision adopted by the German Bundestag.