This Earth Day—and every day—Counterpart International celebrates its local partners around the world who are working to tackle some of the planet’s leading environmental challenges. One of the newest conservation projects will kick off this spring, when Counterpart will partner with the presidential Climate Council of the Dominican Republic to draft a national strategy for combating climate change.

The plan will be the first of its kind to link the protection of mangrove forests with mitigating climate change, and will serve as a guide for the Dominican Republic and other developing nations to better manage their natural resources. The Council invited Counterpart to collaborate on this effort following Counterpart’s groundbreaking research on the importance of mangrove conservation and restoration in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.

Published in 2013, Counterpart’s innovative study was conducted in the Dominican Republic’s Montecristi Province through collaboration with local organization AgroFrontera and Oregon State University. Using original research, the study demonstrated that mangrove forests capture and hold extremely high levels of carbon—far more than scientists previously realized. When these forests are destroyed, harmful carbon emissions are released.

Between 50 and 60 percent of the world’s mangroves have already been lost, and the people of the Dominican Republic want to preserve what’s left of their estimated 21,215 hectares of mangrove forest. Unfortunately, without alternative livelihoods, many coastal communities are forced to clear mangrove forests to make room for salt ponds, shrimp farms, tourism enterprises, or other sources of income.

The proposed climate change strategy, called a Nationally-Appropriate Mitigation Action (NAMA), comes in response to appeals from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and may help garner funding for the Dominican Republic to incentivize mangrove protection. The NAMA will also serve as an action plan for countries with mangroves, including the Dominican Republic, to lower their carbon footprint by working with local organizations and communities to conserve and restore their mangrove forests.

“The decision by the Dominican government to place a greater emphasis on mangrove conservation is an excellent example of how Counterpart works with local organizations to help them expand their impact,” said Counterpart Associate Director of Programs Jennifer Norfolk. “Through partnership with local communities and organizations in the Dominican Republic, Counterpart has helped more than 2,000 farmers build sustainable rice paddies, planted 1,200 coral fragments at 15 sites, and helped conserve mangrove forests and sea grasses along 137 kilometers of coastline of Montecristi Province to date. Our small program in Montecristi is now helping to inform an innovative national policy that will serve as a model throughout the region. We are honored to support a process that will provide coastal communities with more options for climate resilience.”

Since the publication of its study, Counterpart has organized dozens of presentations to share key findings with communities, organizations, government agencies, and other stakeholders nationally and internationally. The study currently acts as an important reference point informing researchers and policymakers about coastal marine ecosystems.

Counterpart has a seven-year history of partnering with local communities and organizations in the Dominican Republic to develop sustainable, scalable, transferable solutions to conservation issues while also strengthening the economic well-being of individuals and their families. In that time, Counterpart and local partners have helped communities protect their natural resources in areas including sustainable agriculture, mangrove conservation, forest co-management, and sustainable fisheries.

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