Sacred Mangrove Forests: Who Bears the Pride?

  • Mwita M. Mangora
  • Mwanahija S. ShalliEmail author


While mangroves have since been regarded as natural wastelands, the need for their conservation is strongly felt today as their invaluable services and functions are being unveiled primarily due to increasing demand for their products and the forest land. Appraising various models of management institutions to enhance conservation and sustainability of these valuable resources has thus been advocated over the recent past. Social taboos exist in most cultures, and they demonstrate forms of informal institutions, where traditional norms, rather than state institutions (laws, regulations), determine human behavior toward exploitation of natural resources. Despite the ill-recognition of these traditional management practices by the state organs, traditional communities have for centuries maintained these practices to ensure the survival of the forests on grounds of spiritual and ecological values. In this chapter we reviewed the state of knowledge of the functional conservation values of sacred mangrove forests in Tanzania and how they are being conceived as models for the promotion of community based conservation (CBC). The discussion is based on the perspectives of forest dependency, traditional access and use rights, traditional ecological knowledge, socio-ecological integration of culture and forest, and the traditional power relations. We argue that traditional people, who have maintained strong ties to their cultural norms and kept the sacred groves outshining the contemporary models of conservation, should bear the pride and honor in the renaissance of conservation tenets.


Conservation Local Communities Mangrove Forests Traditional Knowledge 



The Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA) provided the authors with financial support to present the first version of this chapter at the International Conference on Climate Change, Agri-Food, Fisheries and Ecosystems (ICCAFFE 2011) in Agadir, Morocco. We thank Dr. Christopher Muhando for providing us with a map in Fig. 1 from his GIS database. We extend our appreciation to the three anonymous reviewers for their critical comments that improved the conceptual content of the chapter.


  1. Akida A, Blomley R (2008) Trends in forest ownership, forest resources tenure and institutional arrangements: are they contributing to better forest management and poverty reduction? Case study from the republic of Tanzania. Understanding forest tenure in Africa: opportunities and challenges for forest tenure diversification. Food and Agricultural Organization of UN, Forest Policy and Institutions Working Paper No.14. FAO. pp 305–333Google Scholar
  2. Alcorn JB (1989) Process as resource. Adv Econ Bot 7:63–77Google Scholar
  3. Aswani S, Hamilton RJ (2004) Integrating indigenous ecological knowledge and customary sea tenure with marine and social science for conservation of bumphead parrotfish (Bolbometopon muricatum) in the Roviana Lagoon, Solomon Islands. Environ Conser 31:69–83CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Banyikwa FF, Semesi AK (1986) Endangered mangrove ecosystems: The case of the Kunduchi and Mbweni mangrove forests. In: Mainoya JR, Siegel PJ (eds) Proceeding workshop on save the mangrove ecosystems in Tanzania, 21–22 February 1986, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, pp 103–132Google Scholar
  5. Bélair C, Ichikawa K, Wong BYL, Mulongoy KJ (eds) (2010) Sustainable use of biological diversity in socio-ecological production landscapes. Background to the Satoyama Initiative for the benefit of biodiversity and human well-being. Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Montreal. Technical Series no. 52, p 184Google Scholar
  6. Berkes F (1999) Sacred ecology. Traditional ecological knowledge and resource management. Taylor and Francis, Philadelphia and LondonGoogle Scholar
  7. Berkes F, Colding J, Folke C (2000) Rediscovery of traditional ecological knowledge as adaptive management. Ecol Application 10:1251–1262CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Colding J (1998) Analysis of hunting options by the use of general food taboos. Ecological Modelling 110:5–17CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cox PA (2000) A tale of two villages: culture, conservation and eco-colonialism in Samoa. In: Zerner C (ed) People, plants and justice. Columbia University Press, New York, pp 330–344Google Scholar
  10. Falconer J (1992) Non-timber forest products in Ghana, Main Report, ODAGoogle Scholar
  11. FAO (1990) The major significance of minor forest products: the local use and value of forests in the West African humid forest zone. RomeGoogle Scholar
  12. Gadgil M, Berkes F, Folke C (1993) Indigenous knowledge for biodiversity conservation. Ambio 22:151–156Google Scholar
  13. Glaser M (2003) Interrelations between mangrove ecosystem, local economy and social sustainability in Caete Estuary, North Brazil. Wetland Ecol Manage 11:265–272CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gombya-Ssembajjwe W (1997) Indigenous technical knowledge and sacred groves (traditional forest reserves), Mpigi District, Uganda. Uganda Forestry Resources and Institutions Center (UFRIC) Research Note No. 1Google Scholar
  15. Gombya-Ssembajjwe W (2000) An alternative way of conserving forest resources. In: Gombya-Ssembajjwe W, Banana AY (eds) Community based forest resources management in East Africa. Makerere University Press, KampalaGoogle Scholar
  16. Grant DKS (1938) Mangrove woods of Tanganyika territory: their silviculture and dependent industries. Tanganyika Notes and Records 5:5–16Google Scholar
  17. Harkes I, Novaczek I (2002) Presence, performance, and institutional resilience of sasi, a traditional management institution in Central Maluku, Indonesia. Ocean and Coastal Manag 45:237–260Google Scholar
  18. Hickey FR, Johannes RE (2002) Recent evolution of village-based marine resource management in Vanuatu. SPC Traditional Marine Resour Management Knowl Inf Bull 14:8–21Google Scholar
  19. Huber ME, McGregor KR (2001) A synopsis of information relating to marine protected areas in the Pacific Islands region. Report to the South Pacific Regional environment programme, international waters programme. Apia, Samoa: South Pacific Regional Environment ProgrammeGoogle Scholar
  20. Johannes RE (1981) Words of the Lagoon: fishing and marine lore in the Palau district of Micronesia. University of California Press, California, p 245Google Scholar
  21. Johannes RE (1989). Criteria for determining the value of traditional marine tenure systems in the context of contemporary marine resource management in Oceania. Report on the workshop on customary tenure, traditional resource management and nature conservation, March 1988. South Pacific Regional Environment Program, Noumea, New Caledonia, pp 29–32Google Scholar
  22. Johannes RE (1998) The case for data-less marine resource management: examples from tropical nearshore fisheries. Trends Ecol Evol 13:243–246CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Johannes RE (2002) The renaissance of community-based marine resource management in Oceania. Ann Rev Ecol Syst 33:317–340CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kassam KA (2009) Viewing change through the prism of indigenous human ecology: findings from the Afghan and Tajik Pamirs. Hum Ecol 37(6):677–690CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kay R, Alder J (1999) Coastal planning and management. E and FN Spon, London, p 375Google Scholar
  26. Kirk M (1999) Land tenure, technological change and resource use: transformation process in African agrarian systems. Peter Lang, FrankfurtGoogle Scholar
  27. Kunstadter P, Bird ECF, Sabhasri S (eds) (1986) Man in the mangroves. United Nations University, TokyoGoogle Scholar
  28. Lacerda LD, Conde JE, Bacon PR, Alarcon C, D’Croz L, Kjerfve B, Polania J, Vanucci M (1993) Mangrove ecosystems in Latin America and the Caribbean: a summary. In: Lacerda LD (ed) Conservation and Sustainable utilization of mangrove forests in Latin America and African regions (Part 1: Latin America). Mangrove Ecosystem Technical Reports 2, International Society for Mangrove Ecosystems and International Tropical Timber Organization, TokyoGoogle Scholar
  29. Leskinen J, Pohjonen VM, Mbarouk SA (1997) Woody biomass inventory of Zanzibar Islands. Zanzibar Forestry Development Project Technical Paper No. 40. Commission for Natural Resources, Zanzibar and Forest and Park Services, Helsink. p 103Google Scholar
  30. Lopez-Hoffman L, Monroe IE, Narvaez E, Martinez-Ramos M, Ackerly DD (2006) Sustainability of mangrove harvesting: how do harvesters’ perceptions differ from ecological analysis? Ecol. Soc. 11 (2):14. Google Scholar
  31. Mainoya JR, Mesaki S, Banyikwa FF (1986) The distribution and socio-economic aspects of mangrove forests in Tanzania. In: Kunstadter P, Bird ECF, Sabhasri S (eds) Man in the mangroves. United Nations University, Tokyo, pp 87–95Google Scholar
  32. Masalu DCP, Shalli MS, Kitula RA (2010) Customs and taboos: the role of indigenous knowledge in the management of fish stocks and coral reefs in Tanzania. Coral reef targeted research, World Bank/GEF and Institute of Marine Sciences, University of Dare s Salaam, p 64Google Scholar
  33. McClanahan TR, Marnane MJ, Cinner JE, Kiene WE (2006) A comparison of marine protected areas and alternative approaches to coral-reef management. Curr Biol 16:1408–1413CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. MNRT (2006) Participatory forest management in Tanzania: facts and figures. Ministry of natural rsources and tourism, forestry and beekeeping division. p 8Google Scholar
  35. Mokgoro Y (1994) Traditional authority and democracy in the Interim South African constitution. Occasional Papers, Johannesburg, South AfricaGoogle Scholar
  36. Nurse M, Kabamba J (1999) Defining institutions for collaborative mangrove management: a case study from Tanga, Tanzania. Paper presented at an Int Workshop in Oxford, p 18Google Scholar
  37. Ormsby AA, Bhagwat SA (2010) Sacred forests of India: a strong tradition of community-based natural resource management. Envir Cons 37(3):320–326CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Peres CA, Terborgh JW (1995) Amazonian nature reserves: An analysis of the defensibility status of existing conservation units and design criteria for the future. Cons Biol 9:34–46CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Poudel P (2010) Importance of social-ecological system in biodiversity conservation: a reflection from disappearing sacred natural sites of Nepal. p 13.
  40. Ruddle K (1998) The context of policy design for existing community-based fisheries management systems in the Pacific Islands. Ocean Coastal Manag 40:105–126CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Saikia A (2004) Indigenous control and sustainability of common resources in the hills of North East India. The tenth confe int assoc for the study of common property, Oaxaca, Mexico, August 9–13, 2004Google Scholar
  42. Saleh MAE (2000) Value assessment of cultural landscape in Alkas settlement, Southwestern Saudi Arabia. Ambio 29(2):60–66Google Scholar
  43. Semesi AK (1989) Conserving the mangrove forests of East Africa: the case of the Rufiji delta mangrove, Tanzania. Paper presented to a workshop on marine sciences in East Africa. 14–16 November, 1989. Dar es SalaamGoogle Scholar
  44. Semesi AK (1992) Developing management plans for the mangrove forest reserves of the mainland Tanzania. Hydrobiologia 247:1–10CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Semesi AK (1998) Status and utilisation of mangroves along the coast of Tanzania. In: Mainoya JR (ed) Proc Workshop on ecology and bioproductivity of the marine coastal waters of Eastern Africa, 18–20 January 1988. Faculty of Science, University of Dar es Salaam, Dar es Salaam, TanzaniaGoogle Scholar
  46. Shalli MS (2011) Traditional knowledge in the management of coastal and marine resources in Tanzania. A thesis submitted in fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of doctor of philosophy (Aquatic Science) of the University of Dar es Salaam. p 208Google Scholar
  47. Spalding M, Kainuma M, Collins L (2010) World Atlas of mangroves. International Society for Mangrove Ecosystems, Okinawa, JapanGoogle Scholar
  48. Torell E (2002) From past to present: the historical context of environmental and coastal management in Tanzania. Dev Southern Africa 19(2):16CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. UNESCO (1998) Natural sacred sites: cultural diversity and biological diversity, Paris, September 1998. Symposium organized by UNESCO, CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique—National Centre for Scientific Research, France) and MNHN (Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle—National Museum of Natural History, France)Google Scholar
  50. United Republic of Tanzania (URT) (1998) National forest policy. Ministry of natural resources and tourism. Dar es Salaam, p 59Google Scholar
  51. Veitayaki J (2004) Building bridges: the incorporation of traditional knowledge into ecosystem management and practices in Fiji. Paper presented at Bridging scales and epistemologies: linking local knowledge and global science in multi-scale assessments, 17–20 March 2004, Alexandria, Egypt. 27 pGoogle Scholar
  52. Wadley RL, Colfer CJP (2004) Sacred Forest, hunting, and conservation in West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Hum Ecol 32(3):313–338CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Walsh PD, Abernethy KA, Bermejo M, Beyersk R, De Wachter P, Akou ME, Huljbregis B, Mambounga DI, Toham AK, Kilbourn AM, Lahm SA, Latour S, Maisels F, Mbina C, Mihindou Y, Obiang SN, Effa EN, Starkey MP, Telfer P, Thibault M, Tutin CEG, White LJT, Wilkie DS (2003) Catastrophic ape decline in western equatorial Africa. Nature 422:611–614CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Walters BB (2005) Patterns of local wood use and cutting of Philippine mangrove forests. Econ Bot 59:66–76CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Wang Y, Bonynge G, Nugranad J, Traber M, Ngusaru A, Tobey J, Hale L, Bowen R, Makota V (2003) Remote sensing of mangrove change along the Tanzania coast. Marine Geodesy 26:35–48CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. White A, Hale L, Renard Y, Cortesi L (eds) (1994) Collaborative and community-based management of coral reefs: lessons from experience. Kumarian Press, West Hartford, ConnecticutGoogle Scholar
  57. Whyte J (2001) Lessons learned and best practices for integrated coastal watershed conservation and management initiatives in the Pacific Islands region. Provisional report to the South Pacific regional environment programme international waters programme. Apia, Samoa: South Pacific Regional Environment ProgrammeGoogle Scholar
  58. Wild R, McLeod C (eds) (2008) Sacred natural sites: guidelines for protected area managers. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland, p 131Google Scholar
  59. Wu Y, Chung A, Tam NFY, Pi N, Wong MH (2008) Constructed mangrove wetlands as secondary treatment system for municipal wastewater. Ecol Engineer 34:137–146CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Ylhaisi J (2000) The significance of traditional forests and rituals in Tanzania: a case study of Zigua, Gweno, and Nyamwezi ethnic groups. In: Virtanen P, Nummelin M (eds) Forests, chiefs and peasants in Africa: local management of natural resources in Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Silva Carelica 34:194–219. University of Joensuu, FinlandGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Marine SciencesUniversity of Dar es SalaamZanzibarTanzania

Personalised recommendations