Public dialogue stakeholders burnt with curiosity when they heard that a vendor, Said Mohamed Chande (59), from Somanga North Village in Kilwa District, Lindi Region, had invented a rare technology to restore damaged coral reefs. This was during a public dialogue on climate change hosted at Dar es Salaam University College of Education (DUCE) Campus in Temeke District recently.
Chande’s invention was unveiled by DUCE researcher and chairperson of the public dialogue organising committee and public dialogue moderator, Dr Almas Mazigo, at a slide show session on what kind of intervention a Somanga North coral reef restoration and protection group was involved in to mitigate climate change in their community.
Dr Mazigo said the coral reef restoration and protection group, which involved 20 members (men and women), had taken that initiative because they knew they were going to suffer most in the future if they didn’t take remedial action.
Although community members depended on fish for their livelihoods they realised that as years passed by fish catches were declining, but demand was increasing. This phenomenon threatened their survival and so they organised themselves and formed the group to restore and protect coral reefs which are breeding habitats, shelter and sources of food of fish and other species in the ocean ecosystem.
DUCE convened the public dialogue through Centre for Social and Political Research (CSPR) under its chairperson, Dr Frank Mateng’e.
With the theme “On Saving Lives and Livelihood Opportunities in Climate-Vulnerable Coastal Communities of the Indian Ocean Region”, the public dialogue convened on the last day of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) held in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, which had run from November 6-18, 2022.
Speaking during the opening of the public dialogue, DUCE Principal, Prof Stephen Maluka, said they had decided to convene this special event because climate change was real and needed concerted efforts to address.
He said collaboration between DUCE and the Somanga North community provided a symbiotic existence. “DUCE researchers learn from the fishing community and the latter receive the support they need to improve the restoration and protection of coral reefs they are engaged in,” he said.
The Somanga North Village intervention translates into taking necessary steps to mitigate climate change at the community level and participation in global commitments that can be expressed through a famous phrase used many times on various occasions: “think globally, act locally”.
“Today in every part of Tanzania people complain about drought and water and power shortages. Cold weather in Dar es Salaam this year is incredible, yet there is no rain in sight and we have to cope with this situation. So, the public dialogue is meant to reflect on and address together climate change issues,” said Prof Maluka.
The effects of climate change are seen in different parts of Dar es Salaam and also in other parts of the country and of the world.
In Somanga North Village in particular the effects of climate change threaten the survival of the fishing community as fishermen no longer get fish catches as they used to in the past when coral reefs and mangroves grew naturally and fishermen had not tampered with nature.
But now things have drastically changed due to climate change and destructive human activities. Coral reefs grow well at certain water temperatures usually between 23º and 29º of Celsius and some may survive at temperatures slightly below 23º or above 29º of Celsius, but not so at extreme low or high temperatures.
The heat waves we experience nowadays impact on the lifespan of coral reefs and of the species that depend on them for survival. There is also dynamite fishing, which damages coral reefs and kills fish and other living organisms in the Indian Ocean ecosystem.
It is these two factors that prompted the Somanga North Coral Reef Restoration and Protection Group to make small bricks on which to transplant coral reef seedlings (three per brick) and return them to the ocean ecosystem. So far, about 2,000 small bricks with three coral reef seedlings each have been made. This translates into 6,000 seedlings that have been transplanted.
Explaining how coral reef restoration is done, one of the DUCE researchers, Dr Emiliana Mwitta, said it needed great care because coral reef seedlings taken out of their habitat survived only within 7 minutes. “So, just imagine how demanding it is to dive to a spotted site with some coral reefs under the ocean, carefully collect some seedlings, go back with them to a waiting boat above, transplant them on a small brick and take them to a damaged coral reef site,” she said.
She explained that during her participatory observation it was difficult for her to go by boat to spotted sites with coral reefs because sometimes weather could change. She said the more she did it the more she got used to it “and now I am no longer afraid of this learning experience.”
Besides coral reef restoration, the fishing community is also involved in mangrove restoration and protection and in beekeeping as an alternative to fishing due to low fish catches and low earnings that hardly sustain a family.