Historically, mangrove forests have protected indigenous coastal communities from the impacts of coastal hazards such as tsunamis, strong winds, storm surges, and swell waves. Mangroves provide several benefits to humans and natural habitats. They have the capacity to store five times more carbon than upland forests, making them one of the best nature-based solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, stabilise coastlines, enrich biodiversity, and tackle climate change. Mangroves are therefore essential for rebuilding ecosystem resilience and sustainable development.

However, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) reports that between 1996-2020, global mangrove coverage decreased by 3.4%. This is reflected in the more recent Global Mangrove Alliance’s report, State of the World’s Mangroves 2022. In Ghana, the Volta River Estuary is at acute risk from the impacts of climate change, such as the West African Monsoons.  Recent flooding in October 2023 has affected smallholder farms, schools, businesses and the lives of over 36,000 people living in Havui, Sokpoe, Mepe, Sogakope and other settlements along the river.

Sylvanus S.P. Doe headshot

Sylvanus S.P. Doe

Some of these communities are surrounded by thick mangrove forests which have protected them from the worst effects of flooding. However, mangrove forest loss is on the rise. The mangrove trees are often cut for firewood to support the fish processing industry and for household purposes, decreasing the potential of mangroves for protection against recurring ocean, flood and climate effects.

Protecting and restoring mangroves is therefore key to mitigating the impacts of climate change.               

From October 2023 to March 2024, Commonwealth Alumnus Sylvanus S. P. Doe delivered a series of awareness activities to promote ways in which mangroves can be sustainably reforested and restored using indigenous ecological knowledge to develop a mangrove restoration project.

Sylvanus is a Research Fellow affiliated to the Earth System Governance Project, Utrecht University in The Netherlands, and an Executive Lead of the Green Oyster Opportunities for Development (GOOD), an inclusive start-up ecoenterprise, which promotes community-based conservation, co-restoration and sustainable consumption of oysters alongside mangroves to meet varied sustainability needs.

The activity promoted the 2023/24 ACEF theme: Preserving and Promoting Indigenous Knowledge.

Promoting civic engagement in mangrove restoration

In Ghana, mangroves provide food security and economic and livelihood opportunities. They also support a wide variety of plants, fish and animals important to ecosystem services. As such, Sylvanus aimed the project at mangrove owners, fishermen, farmers, and indigenous members of the Havui community. The sessions included community meetings, a radio talk show, a mangrove planting exercise, the establishment of a plant nursery, and a final open day event.

On 18 October, Sylvanus held a meeting to plan the mangrove restoration project and the importance of this activity. He spoke about the impact of climate change and the relevance of indigenous knowledge in preserving natural biodiversity in the Volta River Basin.

Havui community members

Havui community members

This was followed by a public meeting on 6 November, during which he stressed the importance of restoring the mangroves as a climate action. He also used the meeting to introduce and sensitise the community on the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Sylvanus introduced the approved mangrove restoration project and invited community members to choose an appropriate site. The meeting was attended by over 50 community members who showed appreciation for being selected to implement the project.

To increase the reach of this messaging, Sylvanus partnered with Sela FM Radio to broadcast information about the mangrove restoration project. The talk show included discussion between the radio host and three guest speakers: Sylvanus, Mamaga Adokuwa Azaworgbe-Dumenya IV, and Noah Akutu, Youth Representative and a member of the GOOD Team.

The radio discussion was broadcast in the Ewe language to increase accessibility. It is estimated the show reached over 5,000 listeners across more than ten political administrative districts in the river basin.

Implementing the mangrove restoration project

Mangrove plantation seedlings

Mangrove seedlings

In November and December, Sylvanus carried out two mangrove planting exercises with 35 community members. Together, they planted1,200 mangroves which Sylvanus estimates will help restore at least 2.5 hectares of degraded mangrove rangelands.

The nursery has the capacity to raise 10,000 mangrove seedlings and other fruit trees. Taking opportunity of the community’s enthusiasm towards this project, Sylvanus further shared information on aftercare of seedlings, as well as educating young people on the harmful effects of microplastics and single use plastics in water bodies and the Atlantic Ocean.

He also shared time-saving mechanisms to maintain the mangroves, including introducing duck keeping to an all women group called Miwoenewoanyo Society of Havui.

Celebrating the community’s efforts in starting the project

On 22 February, Sylvanus organised an open day to engage and celebrate the success of the community mangrove forestry action.

Mamaga Adokuwa Azaworgbe-Dumenya IV signing a Visitors' Book

Mamaga Adokuwa Azaworgbe-Dumenya IV engaging with community members

The event increased awareness on indigenous practice and promoted inclusive participation in restoring mangroves. Mamaga Adokuwa Azaworgbe-Dumenya IV, the Queenmother of the Volo Traditional Area, urged local Kings, Queen mothers and family heads in the lower Volta River Basin to support local women to plant and conserve more mangroves.

This was followed by a speech by Mr Ernest M. Abiew, the Principal of the Ohawu Agricultural College in the Volta Region. He encouraged the community to diversify their livelihoods and source of income to reduce dependency on cutting mangroves. He provided examples such as beekeeping, mushroom production, and organic aqua ponds.


Mr Amenorhu Kogolegba, an elder representing the Havui community, highlighted the existing indigenous knowledge in protecting mangroves. He noted that mangrove rangelands ensure the sustainability of reeds, fishes, crabs, mussels, birds, and support the local economy. He reaffirmed the community’s commitment to adopt best indigenous practices in taking care of the newly planted mangroves. He also appealed for further sustainable development interventions from the government and NGOs to protect the community from climate change.

The event included a traditional cultural dance, ‘Akorfee’, performed by men, women and youth.


Continued efforts in mangrove restoration

Sylvanus’ activity was the first in empowering the Havui community to start a collective mangrove forestry. Introducing this integrated concept has mobilised the community to implement indigenous knowledge to conserve and restore mangroves and embrace the importance of gender inclusion in these activities.

Havui community members attending the awareness event

Havui community members attending the awareness event

Sylvanus hopes to closely work with partners and the community to formalise, upgrade, and sustain the nursery facility to become a centre of excellence for learning and exchange of new ideas, nature-based technologies and sustainable solutions in mangrove restoration, ecosystem improvements, and advancing climate actions in the estuary and beyond.

Sylvanus S.P. Doe is a 2005 Commonwealth Shared Scholar from Ghana. He completed an MSc in Practising Sustainable Development from Royal Holloway, University of London.