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* U.S. nonprofit organization Seacology wins $1 million grant for Sri Lanka mangrove conservation project
Sat, Mar 18, 2017, 08:32 am SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Mar 18, Colombo: A U.S. nonprofit organization Seacology based in Berkley, California has won a grant of almost $1 million for a conservation project in Sri Lanka.

The Sri Lanka Mangrove Conservation Project supported by Seacology has been named a winner of this year's Global Resilience Challenge, enabling a major expansion of U.S. NGO's landmark nationwide project.

The competition, hosted by the international Global Resilience Partnership (GRP), selected a number of organizations working to bolster communities against climate change and natural disasters in Africa and Asia.

The nearly $1 million grant will let Seacology expand the initiative's reach and deepen its impact in the country's northern and eastern regions, Seacology said in a release.

"This project makes Sri Lanka the first nation in the world to protect all of its mangrove forests. This is very important as mangroves sequester more carbon than other forests and thus play a vital role in the battle against global warming," Duane Silverstein, Seacology's executive director said in the release.

"Funding from GRP allows us to expand this program in the northern and eastern portions of Sri Lanka which were disproportionately impacted by the 26-year civil war."

The new funding will also let Seacology expand the microfinance and job-training components of the project.

Seacology and Sri Lanka-based NGO Sudeesa, which was formerly known as the Small Fishers Federation of Lanka, along with the Sri Lankan government in 2015 launched the joint program that will make Sri Lanka the first nation in the world to comprehensively protect all of its mangrove forests.

This project will protect all 21,782 acres (8,815 ha) of Sri Lanka's existing mangrove forests by providing alternative job training and microloans to 15,000 impoverished women who live in 1,500 small communities adjacent to the mangrove forests. The project will also replant 9,600 acres (3,885 ha) of mangrove forests that have been cut down.

Seacology and Sudeesa will open a new job-training center and increase the value of each microloan offered under the program from $45 to $100, Silverstein said.

"This increase may seem small by Western standards, but it can be life-changing in Sri Lanka, where monthly incomes are often as low as $70. A small amount of financial assistance can offer a path out of poverty for some of the country's most vulnerable inhabitants, who are essential partners in our effort to protect the country's remaining mangrove forests," Seacology's executive director said in the release.

In exchange for receiving these microloans to start up small businesses, all 1,500 communities will be responsible for protecting an average of 21 acres of mangrove forest.

Mangroves, which are tropical trees that have thick, stilt like roots and grow in brackish swamps and shallow salt water, are vitally important since they play an important role in ameliorating climate change.

Mangrove forests also provide a key buffer, greatly decreasing damage caused by tsunamis, hurricanes, and other storms. The root system of the trees also serves as nurseries for many species of fish that go on to populate coral reefs.

Sri Lanka has 21 species of mangroves, making it a global hotspot for mangrove biodiversity. But recently mangroves have been extensively and often illegally cleared, partly to make way for shrimp ponds.


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