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West Africa

In Africa, mangroves are experiencing very contrasted dynamics. In some areas of Western Africa (Senegal and The Gambia), mangroves have experienced significant deforestation for decades. However, we have witnessed vast areas of re-growth due to massive reforestation efforts supported by carbon-offset initiatives. 


This work in Senegal and The Gambia originated from a project funded by UCLA’s Lemelson Award for Innovative Digital Projects in Social Research. This was a collaborative effort by UCLA Geography faculty (Pr. Carney), graduate students (Ashley Fent and myself), and undergraduates (Christie Ford, Johnneson Mymala, Robert Burns, Jonathan Atallah), with assistance from Senegal's Centre de Suivi Écologique, TRY Oyster Women Association in The Gambia, and filmographer Cheikh Sadibou Mané (Chesam Productions).


Our goal was to trace the history of mangrove loss and regrowth, throught Senegal and The Gambia.  We further investigated the entry of mangroves into circuits of capitalism and market-based conservation, and the social and ecological impacts of reforestation efforts in Senegal and The Gambia.

This work included a remote sensing analysis of mangrove dynamics, followed by multiple field campaigns where we conducted drone surveys as well as extensive qualitative interviews. We investigated the complexities and controversies surrounding mangrove reforestation in Senegal and The Gambia, and traced the genealogy of community-based mangrove reforestation, which sought to revitalize economically important ecosystems in response to the Sahelian droughts of 1968-74 and the 1980s. This was followed with more contemporary reforestation campaigns, financed by international actors motivated by biodiversity conservation and carbon offset market mechanisms.

This work resulted in a peer-reviewed paper (Global Environmental Change, 54, 214-226), as well as the following educational film, which was made publicly available as an educational tool. This film sought to bring African voices to contemporary climate-change discourses, and to demonstrate that mangrove reforestation initiatives have remade incentive structures, economic benefits, and socio ecologies in ways that are both promising and problematic.

You can find more field trip pictures associated with this project below:

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