© Alexander Belokurov / imagenature.com
When we arrived there a charming woman, Mrs Martha Stella, who introduced herself as a community leader and proceeded to tell us about her and the community relation with the mangroves, received us. “I was born here in Bajito and since I opened my eyes I´ve seen everyone is fishing, piangua* or fishes. In this community women, men and children fish piangua. I remember that in the past the charcoal didn’t exist, nobody used to burn charcoal, we cooked with wood, but one day some men came and started burning charcoal and the people here learnt to burn charcoal and cut the wood, half of the community was dedicated to this activity. Back then we didn’t think that cutting the mangroves was bad, because when went to collect piangua it was abundant the first days, but after… it was depleted. We didn’t have experience, there was nobody to teach us, and we used to do things our way. Nowadays, with the support from institutions like WWF and Corponariño we have learnt that cutting the mangrove is harmful for us, because the piangua disappears. We have also learnt how mangroves protect us from the sea, in the past, here where we are, this was small because the sea used to take it, but as the mangrove started growing, the sea didn´t come in anymore. Mangroves favor us in many ways; they provide us with piangua, piacuil, and crabs and protect us from storms. That is why we know we have to protect mangroves and we are restoring them. So, we tell the young that we need to increase the mangrove area. I like the work we have done here, when women plant the seedlings they do it with love and care for the restored areas”.
* piangua is a small mollusc, harvested mostly for local subsistence