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A Homegrown Way to Fight Climate Change

As the impacts of climate change become ever-harder to ignore, it’s important to remember that some solutions exist close to home.

With southern Vietnam forecast to be particularly vulnerable to increasing flooding and stronger storms in the coming decades, coastal communities will need powerful protection in order to survive.

While sea walls, flood gates and other ‘hard’ barriers may be the first thing that comes to mind when one imagines shielding people from the sea, a far more natural option is available in the right setting.

Mangroves, which cover a wide range of species, are vital to coastal tropical ecosystems around the world. They provide habitats for all kinds of terrestrial and marine life, deflect the impact of storm surges and dangerous waves, and also absorb massive amounts of carbon dioxide.

They are one of nature’s finest protective systems, and in Tra Vinh Province’s coastal stretches, efforts are underway to expand their footprint. The work will both increase biodiversity in the area while also improving the future outlook for local communities.

MangLub, a social enterprise funded by SK Innovation and the Korea Association for UN Environment, has been planting mangroves in Tra Vinh since 2018, with an initial focus on a tiny, sparsely inhabited islet called Con Ban. Their work has expanded since then, and when Saigoneer visited earlier in the year - well before the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak - healthy, growing swathes of mangrove trees lined miles of coastline.

While this is clearly beneficial to the environment, MangLub’s activities have attracted great attention from students and young people across Tra Vinh. “People are now searching for us, and the planting has really impacted the young generation here,” said Thy Pham, a team member. “It’s not just something for fun anymore; it is about planting with us for future generations.”

This transition - from a little-known social enterprise to an increasingly popular organization - happened organically, with people messaging MangLub on Facebook, asking how they can help. This has given young people in Tra Vinh, which doesn’t have the same entertainment options as a major city like Saigon, a unique outlet.

Local students have provided support in a variety of ways. For example, some are applying for scholarships to foreign universities and need volunteer hours, so they assist with content writing, photo editing and other tasks, and receive volunteer certificates in return.

Others have participated directly in tree planting to learn more about the ecosystem and - vitally for Gen Z - get great photos, many of which are now used by MangLub to promote their initiatives.

Beyond attracting youths and students, MangLub has also drawn interest from companies and professional organizations, such as a Saigon-based landscape architecture firm that offered to help in some way, after which MangLub proposed a ‘mangrove skywalk’ in order to give more people educational access to the trees without disturbing them.

Other organizations have partnered with MangLub to submit proposals for international funding which would allow for the planting of another species of mangrove, and they are working with South Korea’s Ewha Womans University on projects related to disaster risks and education.

Additionally, on August 9, MangLub was officially recognized for its achievements in reforestation through an official decision of the Tra Vinh Department of Agriculture & Rural Development.

In a particularly exciting development on the ecological front, their nursery of Intsia bijuga, a vulnerable tree species that can grow up to 160 feet tall that has almost been wiped out in Tra Vinh, is experiencing healthy growth. This gives MangLub not just a prominent position in Vietnam, but also across Southeast Asia, as successfully planting this species is rare.

Of course, as with every organization in the country, the ongoing severe COVID-19 outbreak has impacted MangLub’s work. Tra Vinh Province has been under lockdown since mid-July, along with the rest of southern Vietnam.

As a result, planting teams have been reduced to just a few individuals, but tree planting is still going on, based on the tides.

And next month, MangLub will re-launch its educational events digitally, while also building a platform for future educational courses. Once social distancing regulations are eased, frequent in-person activities will resume across Tra Vinh.

MangLub is set to become a long-lasting partner of the people and the environment in Tra Vinh, with lessons that can be used elsewhere too.

 

MangLub's website

MangLub's Facebook

Phone Number: 0294 654 2888