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September 10, 2010

Inspiration: A Portrait of Mr. Mangrove in Senegal

BY: Brussels Office



We would like to let you know about an inspirational man who came to our attention this morning. In Senegal, Haidar el Ali is fighting for the preservation of mangroves (among many other things related to protecting the ocean’s resources), which are crucial to the reproduction of marine species. The key of his success has been connecting with and educating people on the danger of overfishing and the steps they can take to make a real difference.

El Ali, who was recently named by the French newspaper Le Monde one of the most active environmentalists in the world, travels all over Senegal to convince people that the Earth needs to be saved not just for fish or birds, but for us and the generations to come.

Mr. Mangrove, as he is often called, first had the idea to create a Marine Protected Area in the south of Senegal that would allow fish stocks to recover. Thank to his efforts, 7000 hectares of mangroves have been closed to any exploitation, and locals themselves are watching carefully to make sure that no one violates the rules. In 2009, he also succeeded in gathering 80,000 volunteers to plant 36 million shoots. In his spare time, Haidar also works with his organization (Oceanium) to retrieve abandoned fishing nets from the seafloor – these “ghost nets” are incredibly dangerous to marine life. His next challenge? Gathering 200,000 volunteers to plant 100 million trees.

Mr. Mangrove’s ability to bring his message to and connect with the locals has brought about incredible community involvement – which has been critical in reaching his aims. In fact, scientists have recently found that community involvement is fundamental to the success of marine reserves (to read more on this study, click here).

So what lesson can we learn from this incredible man? The optimistic motto of the weekend should be: If we are part of the problem, we can (and should) be part of the solution. Happy Friday!

If you want to share how you have made a difference, post it on our facebook page!

To read the complete article on Mr Mangrove, click here (in French only).