Integrated planning and practices for mangrove management, agriculture and aquaculture in Myanmar

Project title: Integrated planning and practices for mangrove management associated with agriculture and aquaculture in Myanmar [2018P1-MYR]
Supervisory agencies: Forest Department of Myanmar Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, Australia
Executing agency: University of Queensland, Australia
Budget in USD (total/APFNet grant) : 547,070/309,670
Duration: January 2018–December 2020
Target economy: Republic of the Union of Myanmar
Location: Pyindaye Mangrove Forest Reserve, Amar town, Myanmar
Objectives: Investigate key issues associated with mangrove conversion and degradation; Conduct participatory micro-planning for mangrove management in associated with agriculture and aquaculture development; Apply best practices in mangrove restoration and management and aquaculture in mangrove forests in the project area; Enhance policy development capacity to facilitate design and implementation of mangrove restoration and management; Contribute to sustainable livelihoods and community development within the project area.
Expected outputs: Integrated micro-planning approaches for sustainable mangrove management in associated with agriculture and aquaculture production in the selected landscapes; Implementation of plans developed by the community and the establishment of pilot models for demonstration of best practices in Myanmar; Capacity building and expertise exchange; Improvement of ecosystem services, local livelihoods and project’s scientific outputs. 

 ♦  Biophysical surveys and socio-economic information collection for planning and assessing local capacity and needs.
 ♦  Participatory micro-planning for mangrove conservation, restoration, and management integrated with agriculture and aquaculture.
 ♦  Establishment of co-management and benefit-sharing mechanisms for local communities and forest management bodies at project sites.
 ♦  Establishment of mangrove restoration and aquaculture demonstration models by local communities and technical staff. 
 ♦  Design a monitoring and evaluation framework and implement the framework.
 ♦  Develop and publish ten guidelines, handbooks/manuals on technical aspects of projects, and two international publications. Nine training courses and two international workshops will be conducted to share knowledge and build capacity.
 ♦  Assess the production of aquaculture products from the pilot project, marketing, and sale and enhance the scientific outputs of the project.
Project background
While rich in natural beauty and resources, Myanmar is one of the economies most threatened by the adverse effects of climate change, including more extreme weather events, sea level rise, and flooding. Mangrove forests are the last forest frontier against the sea and act as an important barrier, mitigating sea level rise and the adverse effects of flooding. Healthy mangrove forests will increase resilience to climate change and provide crucial habitats for local species and a more stable coastline. At the same time, mangrove forests are often important to local people’s livelihoods. In the 48,500-ha Pyindaye Mangrove Forest Reserve (PMFR), mangrove forests contribute about 25 percent of total household income, the highest contribution among income sources. However, the extraction of timber and firewood or complete conversion to other land uses, such as cropping and aquaculture, has threatened this ecosystem.
By investigating issues associated with mangrove conversion and degradation, the project “Integrated planning and practices for mangrove management associated with agriculture and aquaculture in Myanmar” sought approaches for sustainable restoration and management of mangroves in line with livelihood improvement through aquaculture and other production practices.
Fig.1 Location of the project site
Project featured topics
Aquaculture in restored mangrove forests
Being an important component of Myanmar’s economy since 1953, aquaculture is traditionally regarded as detrimental to mangrove forests. Generally, mangrove forests have been cleared to make room for aquaculture, as integrating aquaculture activities within mangrove forests poses more technical difficulties. Most development projects in Myanmar have focused on a single or a limited range of issues associated with mangrove forest conservation or restoration. Some projects and programmes have worked on mangrove restoration, while others have focused on building community forestry institutions and frameworks. Some projects supported aquaculture development but integrated mangrove forests as important habitats for aquaculture species. There is a need to consider both mangrove restoration and livelihood improvement concurrently.
After reviewing issues and problems in typical mangrove landscapes in the most important delta of Myanmar, project activities for the restoration and management of mangrove forests integrated with aquaculture and agriculture at the target site were proposed. The core idea was to integrate aquaculture and mangrove restoration in the same area, transforming areas of mangroves that are often of limited immediate direct benefit to local communities into a source of sustainable income.
This model was achieved with the support of the University of Queensland, working in close cooperation with local communities. Fig. 2 shows the improved shrimp aquaculture in mangroves. The greatest challenge was the distance of the designated aquaculture ponds within the community forest to the owners, as increasing distance exponentially increased management costs.
In addition, other new forest restoration models were showcased on 4.9 ha in the delta, introducing many important restoration ideas that change traditional practices, such as not using burning (which releases copious amounts of carbon) as a site preparation method. Important “timber” mangrove species were planted, including 17,000 seedlings of Casuarina equisetifolia (beefwood, ironwood) and 6,000 seedlings of Melaleuca cajuputi (paperbark tree). One private landowner established a plantation of 2.8 ha using the seedlings provided on rice paddy land.  Planting trees is always good for the community and the environment and should be encouraged, especially species that the community uses and that match the site. These species make good poles in 5-7 years, so the landowner will likely sell them as construction material, probably outside the community.  If it is successful, other landowners may copy this tree plantation model.
Fig.2 Improved shrimp aquaculture in mangrove

Participatory micro-planning and co-management of resources
In Southeast Asia, strategic planning is mostly only done at the national or regional level, often due to resource constraints. Yet, in order to sustainably manage any given resource, a detailed plan has to be developed at local scales and with local stakeholders. Based on this knowledge, this project originally aimed to develop such plans through participatory micro-planning, using participatory rural appraisal techniques to understand the unique situation and interests of the community and collect data and information. In this technique, stakeholders identify key issues associated with mangrove conversion and degradation and how mangrove forests will be able to contribute to a sustainable and resilient landscape. Subsequently through participatory land use planning with local staff, community leaders and local residents, a planning document and pilot model for mangrove restoration within aquaculture production would be devised. 
However, in the project’s first year, such a plan was impossible to develop due to local regulations on land use rights and land management. Thus, the documents and maps of current and expected future land use prepared by the community were not submitted to higher authorities for approval. Despite this setback, these documents still assisted the community internally to understand their land better. 

Project Outcomes
The project reviewed existing issues and problems in typical mangrove landscapes and searched for the best practice for restoring and managing mangrove forests and associated aquaculture and agriculture in the project’s target landscapes. Sustainable aquaculture integrated within mangrove forests is one of the most feasible solutions. The design of sustainable aquaculture within mangrove forests provides both reasonable income, firewood for local communities, and additional ecosystem services. According to the monitoring and elevation of the project, the mangrove planting was successful, and the project was very strong in the research and monitoring aspects. The site matching of Avicennia officinalis (Tha-mae Gyi) was correct for the project site, and it appears to be the dominant colonizing species.  It was good to see Heritiera forms (Ka-na-so) and Excoecaria agallocha (Tha-yaw) tree species on site were left during site preparation, as they will likely be the dominant species in the future.
Following consideration of a range of potential aquaculture products, a crab mini-hatchery and 66 ha of crab-fattening aquaculture ponds were established in restored mangrove areas. Although technologically challenging, the crab hatchery promises to become one of the key mechanisms to ensure sustainability in the project area; if successful, it will significantly reduce pressure on natural crab populations. Fig.3 shows juvenile crabs for crab fattening pilot models.
Fig.3 Juvenile crabs for crab fattening pilot models
 In the long term, ten guidelines for locally adapted silviculture and aquaculture will be used as a reference for restoring other sites post-project. Training and technical guidelines produced by the project are Mangrove Forest Inventory; socio-economic survey; Land use planning; GIS and Remote sensing training document; Mangrove Restoration; Mini-crab hatcheries as well as a crab fattening manual. In addition, through a collaboration with the Global Green Growth Institute, the economic and social values of mangrove forests in the delta were evaluated for sustainable landscape assessment.
Multiple training courses for over 92 people were also organized, including training on forest restoration techniques (see Fig.4), crab hatchery management (including a study tour to Viet Nam to learn about crab hatchery management in early 2020), and crab aquaculture. This has helped the local community to conduct activities during the project and likely beyond successfully. The mangrove reforestation capacity-building training for community forest user groups (CFUGs) significantly increased knowledge and awareness.
Fig.4 Mangrove expert train worker on mangrove silviculture 
Project sustainability includes increased and diversified income from harvesting mangrove forest products (short-term aquaculture products and long-term timber and non-timber products) will reduce the pressure to convert forests to unsustainable aquaculture and agriculture. The capacity of local technical staff at different bodies and communities will be strengthened through training, extension, and learning by doing processes. This allows the transfer of project methods and outputs to other communities and regions. Co-management and benefit-sharing regulations will be increased management effectiveness and long-term sustainable mangrove management associated with aquaculture and agriculture. It will increase carbon sequestration, coastal protection, and other ecological services of mangrove forests in the host economy.