Wetlands preservation for sustainable value chains


People have an inclination to destructive tendencies, which contribute to the disturbances of the natural ecosystems, culminating into the disappearance of wetlands.
This, they have done either out of ignorance or greed.

By Peter Makwanya

Wetlands have existed side by side with human settlements from time immemorial, with some surviving to this day.

The need for agricultural land and human settlements has been the major driving factor in making wetlands disappear.

As wetlands disappear, a variety of aquatic creatures, organisms and plants also disappear, as they derive life from the water bodies.

The variety of plants, aquatic life, fruit and crop species that survive in wetlands is clear testimony that, wetlands, if sustainably managed, have enormous potential for supporting natural growth systems and human livelihoods.

But the major undoing is expansionist tendencies and greed for arable land, which have made the disappearance of the wetland populations imminent from most parts of the world. In other countries, commercial buildings, human settlements and infrastructure have been built on wetlands.

These are normally common features in urban areas, where weak laws contribute to this anarchy.

Of course, we normally hear authorities making noise about wetland preservations on World Wetland Preservation Day.

Soon after that, they go on “voicemail” until the following year, when the day is commemorated again.

If we give wetlands a chance to thrive, we would realise significant agricultural benefits, at the same time supporting eco-system growth and environmental compliance.
Each country has its own wetlands that are unique and context specific, which could also provide situational benefits to be accrued from specific wetland types. The advantages of preserving wetlands, while practising agricultural activities without compromising the environment, are that wetland conditions are fertile, moist, cool and support crop and plant growth.

Most wetlands have been destroyed, but rehabilitation may be instituted at local, regional and national levels.

The aim in this regard, is to protect the wetlands for sustainable food production, environmental sustainability and harnessing overall wetland potential in contributing to the sustainable value chains.

The wetland agricultural activities we are advocating should not be seen to be reducing the water and moisture levels, so that the wetland ecosystem is not disturbed.
Because of the active growth inherent in wetlands, flood force and run-off are minimised, while the quality of water is improved and carbon sinks are preserved, ensuring that carbon dioxide is not frequently released into the atmosphere, as it is kept under lock and key underground.

These conditions will contribute to human livelihoods, and communities may contribute to the local and national food-basket by growing wetland tolerant plants and vegetables, which, if there were no wetlands, these plants would not thrive.

As such, hunger and environmental degradation will remain a cause for concern.

But wetland use and management is not easy, it needs training and context-specific knowledge.

This is important in the fact that special conditions are maintained and cultivated so that the people can continue deriving enormous benefits from wetlands.
They can come up with sustainable wetland management groups or syndicates to participate in interactive management and agricultural platforms for the benefit of their own local environments.

These small-scale farming activities and groupings have to be organised, purposeful and productive, in order to foster community, ownership, participation and community of practices.

Horticultural activities can also change lives of these communities, as they can attain high yields, without damaging the environment. Wetlands then become part of a sustainable value chain in food growing, production, processing and marketing.

Well managed wetlands could be part of flood plains that have enormous potential for supporting fish farming and contributing to communities’ diets and nutrition. Besides preserving the natural ecosystems, environmental growth and sustainability, the essence of this discussion is to facilitate and fortify the concept of wetland value chain systems from fish farming, crop, vegetable and fruit production.

In many developing countries, artificial fish breeding is not widespread, although it is a paramount cornerstone to sustainable wetland value chains.

The majority of people have been surviving from river, dam and lake fish harvests,
Sustainable value chains of any kind will help support knowledge transfers and transform rural lives.

In this regard, it is fundamental that wetlands receive national recognition and protection.

It should be a national pledge to protect the remaining wetlands from greedy people.

Peter Makwanya is a climate change communicator. He writes in his capacity and can be contacted on: petrovmoyt@gmail.com