The thick and muddy roots of mangrove trees tie the Caribbean Sea to the coastline of the Dominican Republic. Serving as natural bridges between ocean, land, and air, mangroves provide tremendous benefits for humans, wildlife, and the planet. Their roots are one of the world’s most diverse ecosystems, and they provide an essential habitat for a variety of fish and crustaceans. In addition, their very presence on the shoreline protects coastal communities from storm surges and flooding. All of this makes mangrove ecosystems incredibly important, but it doesn’t stop there.
In recent years, groundbreaking scientific studies discovered that mangrove trees have the unique ability to absorb and store enormous amounts of carbon. And it is because of this that they are now at the forefront of global climate resiliency discussions. Counterpart International, in partnership with civil society and the government of the Dominican Republic, is using science to educate and empower organizations, leaders, and government officials with the skills and knowledge needed to participate in these discussions and to preserve these unique ecosystems.
Engaging Dominican Youth to Become Future Science Leaders
Since May of 2015, Counterpart International has partnered with Hiram College to implement an innovative science curriculum in ten bilingual schools across the country. The Dominican Environmental Education Program (DEEP) engages young Dominican students in hands-on learning in each of their science classes. The program works by training science teachers to build curriculum that actively engages students in the monitoring and evaluation of mangrove forests and their larger coastal ecosystems. The real-time scientific data that the students discover is then used to make the case for coastal preservation.
Partnering with the Government to Establish Sustainable Conservation Policies
As a result of the expertise Counterpart cultivated through our climate resiliency projects in the Dominican Republic, the Dominican National Council on Climate Change invited Counterpart to co-draft a Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action (NAMA) plan in November 2014. Less than a year later, representatives from our partner organizations, The University of Oregon and AgroFrontera, presented their draft on a national blue carbon conservation plan at COP21.
As the NAMA remains in development, Counterpart International continues working closely with the government to assist its progression.
Creating and Protecting Livelihoods
Additionally, throughout the Dominican Republic, Counterpart International has partnered with the public and private sectors to make conserving the country’s natural resources profitable – through ecotourism.
In the town of the town of Bayahibe, Counterpart partnered with Fundemar to protect five areas deemed “marine sanctuaries.” We estimate that these sanctuaries serve nearly 3,000 tourists a day!
We have also worked closely with coastal communities throughout the country to develop and promote ecological trail tours through mangrove forests.
By engaging Dominicans in ecotourism, we have strengthened their local economies, and protected the ecosystems that are uniquely beneficial to the planet.
Science Matters For Climate Resiliency
Our holistic approach in the Dominican Republic is designed with sustainability in mind – sustainable development and sustainable conservation. We believe environmental and climate literacy are essential for citizens, communities, and governments around the world to make informed choices that benefit not only their community and country, but the entire planet.