The Sine-Saloum delta in Senegal is formed by the confluence of two rivers. As the flow of the Sine and the Saloum is quite slow, saltwater inlets extend quite far inland from the sea, making the delta the perfect home for mangroves: tropical trees and shrubs that thrive in salty, coastal waters.
Mangroves – trees and shrubs that are specially adapted to live in salty, tidal water – are one of the most incredible ecosystems. Their complex root systems protect coastal areas from storms and erosion, provide habitats for fish and shellfish that are important protein sources for local people, and sequester huge amounts of carbon that can fight climate change.
Villages here rely on the mangroves to protect them from storms and support agriculture, fishing and seafood. The delta was seriously affected by a drought from 1968 to 1994, which killed the mangroves in the higher parts of the mudflats. The mangroves were also chopped down for their wood, which is used for construction, firewood and charcoal for fish smoking and cooking. Without the mangroves, the coastal communities here are vulnerable to the loss of income from shellfish harvests, as well as to the destruction caused by storms.
The Sine-Saloum delta is an exceptional territory that is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The delta is known for a high biodiversity of flora and fauna, particularly for the bird species that live here. It is the world's leading breeding site for the Royal Tern (Thalasseus maximus). The lesser flamingo (Phoeniconaias minor), the gray pelican (Pelecanus rufescens), the heron goliath (Ardea goliath), the gray headed gull (Chroicocephalus cirrocephalus) and the reef egret (Egretta gularis) also populate the region.
The mangroves here are crucial to local people; fish, including shellfish, is the primary source of animal protein in Senegal. Household incomes are low because of ever-diminishing harvests of fish and shellfish after the loss of their mangrove habitat. The communities here also rely heavily on farming, growing ground nuts, maize and rice and collecting wild honey.
By bringing the biodiversity of the area back to a higher level, the project will boost fish stocks and create sustainable harvesting opportunities for fishing and shellfish collection on the tidal channels and mudflats. Creating new market opportunities and strengthening local expertise on mangroves could open new opportunities to connect local products to different markets and regions in Senegal.
The restoration of mangroves in the area will contribute to the increase of fishery resources and thus to the improvement of the conditions of the populations that draw their resources from the products of the mangrove areas. In addition, reforestation will help boost the region's tourism, particularly through the restoration of landscapes.