Land degradation narratives most often serve to justify coercive environmental policies and lead to dispossession and marginalization of local people. Mangrove policy is a good example of tensions between reclamation and conservation. Mangrove has long been considered as a putrid, waste and dangerous swamp, at least at in the eyes of Westerners; it is now considered as a rich, fragile and threatened ecosystem, which must be protected from human pressures and global change. The national and international political agenda of the last decade put mangroves in the spotlight because of their ability for sequestering carbon, thus justifying politics of reforestation in the frame of REDD+.
While mangroves provide well-known and recognized benefits or services to people, their drastic decline is undeniable in several countries, their current status and socio-ecological dynamics at the regional level are poorly known and the recommended solutions for their sustainable conservation are debatable. In fact, more and more scholars are questioning the legitimacy (bio-ecological, economic and social) of protection and reforestation actions, analysing changes in governance mechanisms and regimes, and pleading for inclusive and sustainable actions for a fair sharing of benefits or "co-benefit" between mangrove conservation and the people well-being.
Our main hypothesis is that the failure of conservation actions is due to more political than technical deficiencies. The multiplicity of actors, each with their knowledge and strategies practices, is one of the main obstacles to shared and sustainable governance of mangroves. COMANCO gives the opportunity to dialogue and exchanges between these actors, whether stakeholders, managers, scientists or decision-makers.
The general objective of the COMANCO project is to establish a network of excellence between environmental and social sciences, that is intersectoral (scientists, young pupils, managers, field operators and artists) and international (Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia) on the issue of mangrove conservation policies. This network will make it possible to capitalize the knowledge of the partners, to synergize their long South-North and North-South partnerships and to value them through new collaborations.
The 4 scientific objectives of COMANCO are:
- Assessing knowledge on the dynamics of mangroves: characterization of health states of socio-ecosystems at various spatial scales and temporal scales.
- Understanding conflicts of values and interests (from global to local scales): scientific uncertainties and controversies, inappropriate policies and conflicts of competences and legitimacy, unfair international mechanisms and resistances of the stakeholders.
- Analysing new conservation models and alliances: comparison of case studies, chosen for their exemplarity but also depending on the strength of the partnership (Brazilian Amazon, Casamance / Guinea Bissau, Kenya, Mozambique, Vietnam and Indonesia).
- Promoting sustainability and co-benefits: interfaces and boundaries between knowledge and governance; feasibility of replication, training, communication and dissemination.
This project also includes two essential components of the RISE projects: training and communication. The following broader objectives will be followed:
- Promote scientific and technological cooperation among network members (Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America);
- Develop new collaborations that can lead to innovative ideas and actions and guide decision-process;
- Strengthen the capacities and knowledge of young researchers;
- Encourage exchanges and synergies between members through mobility and establishing a sustainable network;
- Introduce innovative communication (through various media including images) and develop modelling for the co-construction of knowledge to consolidate the network and advance the participants in their careers.
Key words: mangrove; environmental narratives; conservation policies; system of values; justice and equity; gender; marginalization; globalization; nature commodification; Blue Economy