Safeguarding mangroves is crucial for our future


This blog post is written by Josefine Norgren and Johanna Pettersson, students at the MSc course “Sustainable Forestry and Land Use Management in the Tropics” during a field trip to Tanzania December 2022. 

The mangroves in Tanga district, Tanzania. From left: Josefine Norgren, Yusuph Kajia and Johanna Pettersson. Photo: Ulrik Ilstedt.

During a field trip to Tanzania with SLU we got the chance to visit a mangrove forest located in the coastal district of Tanga. We had the privilege to learn from a local guide, Yusuph Kajia, who is working for the Tanzania Forest Service Agency.

We discovered that despite mangrove forests having many important functions, they have not received the same attention as other forest ecosystems on the planet. Yet, they are one of the world’s most important ecosystems! You have probably heard about climate change and the importance of reducing CO2 emissions. You may also have heard how trees and forests can mitigate climate change and their potential to sustain  livelihoods for millions of people. But have you heard specifically how the mangrove ecosystem is connected to these topics? And why should we even care about an ecosystem that makes up only 0.1% of the Earth’s surface? We want to tell you why!

Why are mangrove forests important?

The mangrove forest ecosystem is a unique and vital part of the Earth’s natural landscape, providing a wide range of ecological, economic, and social benefits to both local and global communities. These forests are found in tropical and subtropical regions worldwide and are characterized by their ability to thrive in salty, coastal environments. Mangrove species have one of the most unique reproductive strategies in the plant world. Some mangrove species are viviparous, which means that seeds germinate into seedlings while still attached to the parent plant[1]. Our guide Yusuph explained another unique strategy, so called aerial roots, that some of the mangrove species have developed in order to survive in this aquatic environment.

Viviparous seeds on a parent plant. These seeds will eventually fall to the ground and take root. Photo: Josefine Norgren

Tanzania has ten different species of mangroves that have many important functions. Apart from acting like a carbon sink, they also provide shelter for a vast number of plant, animal and aquatic species, holding great biodiversity[2]. Yusuph explained that the mangroves also serve as natural barriers against storms and erosion, protecting inland areas from flooding and other natural disasters. He also mentioned that these forests support the livelihoods of local communities who rely on them for a range of activities, such as fishing and wood harvesting, which provide food, shelter, and income for millions of people.

Aerial roots (at the bottom of the picture). Photo: Josefine Norgren

Why should we care about saving the mangroves?

Historically, mangroves have been extensively logged, leading to a decline in their extent and quality. Today, they still face many challenges and threats mainly caused by human activities, such as land conversion, pollution from industrial and agricultural activities, and the impacts of climate change, according to Yusuph. This is a concern considering its many important functions mentioned earlier. Another important factor that can incentivize safeguarding of mangrove ecosystems is that they can capture and store carbon at a much higher rate than most terrestrial forests. When carbon is captured by the world´s oceans and coastal ecosystems, it’s called Blue carbon. Most of this carbon is stored below ground in the soil and is often thousands of years old[3]. Coastal mangroves are also estimated to store up to four times more carbon compared to temperate and boreal forests![4] This makes them an essential tool in the fight against climate change.

Overall, mangrove forests are a vital and complex ecosystem that provides a range of important ecosystem services. Losses of mangroves can have a huge impact on the climate, biodiversity and people’s livelihoods, which should be a strong incitement to care about the conservation and restoration of this forest ecosystem.

What is done today?

The tide has turned and things are changing for the better. The loss of mangroves is declining and our knowledge of their value and importance has improved[4]. In recent years, there has been a renewed focus on sustainable management of these ecosystems to ensure that mangrove forests are protected and managed in a responsible manner, according to Yusuph. This includes the development of new management plans, the implementation of conservation measures, and the enforcement of forestry regulations. Yusuph explains that they also work with local communities and other stakeholders to ensure that the benefits of mangrove forests are shared equitably and sustainably. They are, for example, establishing plantation forests aimed to fuel wood harvesting to relieve the pressure on the mangroves.

“Government cannot protect the forest alone, we need to include the locals to save the mangroves” – Yusuph

Another example is an area of 69.3 ha of mangroves in the Tanga District in Tanzania that was rehabilitated successfully between 1994 and 2003 as part of a collaborative coastal management approach involving local communities[5].

The most recent effort connected to the issue of mangrove deforestation was a report launched in September 2022 by The Global Mangrove Alliance (GMA). The GMA consists of over 30 organizations that work together to accelerate mangrove restoration and conservation measures around the globe. The report is given out annually and aims to compile the most current information on what we know about the mangrove forests and what is being done to reverse the downward trend. Nowadays, we also have access to more extensive and reliable data about the current status of the mangroves via the Global Mangrove Watch maps.

We have learned that the mangroves support many important functions that are crucial for humanity and that this ecosystem can play a key role in mitigating climate change. To stop the loss of mangrove forests across the globe, it is essential that we work together to identify and address the root causes of habitat loss and degradation. This may involve working with local communities to promote sustainable land use practices, supporting conservation efforts, and investing in research and monitoring to better understand the dynamics of these complex ecosystems. By taking a proactive approach, we can ensure that these valuable ecosystems continue to thrive and provide a range of benefits for future generations.

[1] Reproductive Strategies of Mangroves. [2023-01-10]

[2] Tanzania Forest Service Agency (TFS). Tanzania’s Mangroves.  [2023-01-10]

[3] National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. What is Blue Carbon? [2023-01-10]

[4] Leal, M. & Spalding, M. (2022). The State of the World’s Mangroves 2022. Global Mangrove Alliance.

[5] Erftemeijer, P., de Boer, M., Hilarides, L. (2022). Status of Mangroves in the Western Indian Ocean Region. Wetlands International.

How can pearl millet and cowpea be good for healthy diets?


This blog post is written by Sunera Zulficar Nurmomade, PhD student at the Department of Molecular Sciences at SLU in Uppsala.

Mothers are informed about the interview process. Photo: Sunera Zulficar Nurmomade

When I think about undernourished children in Mozambique, I wonder how I can contribute as a researcher to reduce these alarming malnutrition rates in my home country. 

In 2020, I was in Cabo Delgado (the northern part of Mozambique), doing fieldwork. I had the opportunity to talk to and ask some questions to mothers and community leaders to understand the problems connected to undernourished children in these areas. These questions and observations were important to understand food habits, cultural choices and traditions, which helped me to develop different ideas for the project. The idea to choose pearl millet and cowpea in my research is because these grains are locally produced, available, affordable, nutritious and drought resistant. During my fieldwork it was possible to interact with the people in these communities to understand the problems and explain how these grains can be a potential choice to incorporate into their diets, especially into children’s diets, to prevent malnutrition and food insecurity. Furthermore, how to apply traditional processing methods to these grains, such as soaking, germination and fermentation, and why it is very important to apply these treatments to enhance the nutrients and make them bio-available and bio-digestible.

Mothers are informed about the interview process. Photo: Sunera Zulficar Nurmomade

Pearl millet (left) Cowpea (right) Photo: Sunera Zulficar Nurmomade

Soaking, germination and fermentation have been used as traditional processing methods for decades in some parts of African communities since it is affordable and effective in improving nutritional quality and reducing the anti-nutritional factors of the grains. In addition, these traditional processing methods benefit grain digestibility and give favourable characteristics to the final product.

Germinated grains have a high activity of hydrolytic enzymes, which is important for breaking down the major compounds such as starch and non-starch polysaccharides, to reduce the viscosity of thick porridges without dilution with water. Using flour from germinated grains increases energy density and improves the content of some nutrients. On the other hand, fermented grains are important because microorganisms and enzymes produced by the natural microflora alter the composition of the substrates in various ways, improving texture, taste digestibility and nutritional value.

Pearl millet and cowpea are as nutritious as other grains; the key is to know how to prepare them to enhance the nutrients and reduce the anti-nutrients present in the grains. Pearl millet is a good source of macronutrients such as fat, protein, carbohydrate, and micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals. It is also a gluten-free product. Cowpea is a plant protein source used to enrich infant cereal food. Its high lysine content makes it an excellent enhancer of protein quality to add as a complementary ingredient. Moreover, it is beneficial for people that do not have access to animal protein.

Why is this important to know and why is it interesting to study the effect of traditional processing methods on the grains?

Mozambique is a low-income country in the southern part of Africa; 43% of children under the age of five suffer from chronic malnutrition. Food quantity is not always the principal problem, improper feeding practices, i.e. a poor combination of food products, and insufficient knowledge on enhancing nutritional quality through traditional processing methods are the primary problem. This project provides knowledge on changes caused by traditional processing methods on the physicochemical and microstructure properties of pearl millet and cowpea grains and gives potential knowledge about the raw material and possibilities to develop new novel food products.

My study showed that the traditional processing methods, such as germination and fermentation, positively affects the grains, changing the physicochemical properties and microstructure characteristics. Germinated pearl millet showed high enzyme activity, which reduced the amount of total starch content and amylose content, something that is important to increase the energy density of the porridge and soluble dietary fibre. These soluble fraction of dietary fibre are essential because it attracts water and turns to gel in the gut, trapping carbohydrates and slowing the absorption of glucose. Fermentation also changed the physicochemical and microstructure properties of pearl millet and cowpea. However, total starch and amylose content was not affected by fermentation.

This research can have a global impact contributing to Agenda 2030 by improving nutrition and achieving food security. We all know that malnutrition is one of the biggest problems in the world, and this research can help other countries facing the same problem as Mozambique.


Read more? Visit the webpage about millets at SLU Global.


We remember Mersha – a representative of the long-term cooperation between Wondo Genet in Ethiopia and SLU

This blog post was written by Gun Lidestav, Mats Sandewall (Department of Forest Resource Management) and Torgny Söderman (School for Forest Management) at SLU
For more than 35 years SLU has been engaged in a development cooperation with Ethiopia on building a faculty for forest and natural resources at Wondo Genet. More than a hundred Swedish and thousands of Ethiopian students, teachers, researchers and staff have been engaged in the endeavour. Today Wondo Genet College of Forestry and Natural Resources is a national university faculty and an educational institution that provides the Ethiopian society and government with sector staff and specialists.
Mersha in the 1980s (Photo: Omer Studio)

A strong profile in the cooperation was Mersha Gebrehiwot. She was one of the first female Bachelor’s students from Wondo Genet in the joint SLU-Wondo Genet academic programme that started at SLU, Skinnskatteberg, in 1987. Mersha first got a diploma degree from a Sida sponsored programme at Wondo Genet followed by a Bachelor of Science in Forestry from SLU/Skogsmästarskolan (1988-1990). She then worked as a teacher at Wondo Genet and she later built her academic career through a Master’s degree and a PhD from Umeå/Skinnskatteberg and worked within the cooperation until 2022.

Mersha in the 2020s (Photo: Marine Elbakidze)

As a teacher, Mersha was an inspiration, especially to female students. But above all she was down-to earth in her teaching role in forestry subjects and she engaged herself in the relations between the staff of the college and its surrounding people, be it “encroaching loggers” or farming communities. For us foreign guests at Wondo Genet, Mersha was the one who always looked after us with great generosity.

Mersha as teacher (Photo: Marine Elbakidze)

As a researcher and development agent, Mersha’s desire and drive was always “to make a difference”. Her doctoral thesis is a good example of that. Her attitude influenced her choice of subject, research questions, scientific methods and the way she carried out the fieldwork. With respect and integrity, she approached complex problems on how land use changes affects food and livelihood security and the survival of the women and men in rural households. Her informants were not only data sources but also real people to whom she constantly related her research. It also characterised how she communicated the results, regardless if it was among local farmers or high-level decision makers.

Mersha as researcher (Photo: Mats Sandewall)

In all these respects, Mersha set an example to all of us who did research and development together with her. For those who have a particular commitment to issues of gender equality her involvement in IUFRO Research Group “Gender and Forestry” was essential. With Mersha as the local organiser, the 3rd Gender and Forestry Conference was successfully carried out at Wondo Genet College in November 2013. The conference involved 50 researchers and students from Africa, Asia, Europe and North America. (Recently, she contributed to the ongoing programme, Catalysing the Ethiopian Forest Sector Development, by describing gender gaps and gender mainstreaming efforts, and training of forestry extension agents in gender-sensitive approaches.)

Mersha in Ukrainian environments (Photo: Marine Elbakidze)

Mersha had an admirable ability to find herself in the most varied environments and contexts, and thus also make others feel comfortable and appreciated. We are many friends and colleagues that miss her, but just as many who draw inspiration from the example she will continue to be.

Mersha in Ethiopian environments (Photo: Marine Elbakidze)

A scholarship fund is being established based on donations from Swedish and other colleagues in the memory and spirit of Mersha for providing awards to Wondo Genet students (further information through

Mersha and Swedish supervisee Helena in Skinnskatteberg. Helena made her thesis in Wonde Genet. (Photo: Torgny Söderman)

 LOSS and DAMAGE – two words with so much meaning.


This blog post is written by Hanna Wolf, Division of Environmental Integration SLU and advisor at Sida’s Helpdesk for Environment and Climate Change.

Climate activists at COP27
Photo: UNFCCC_COP27_19Nov22_CivilSocietyActions_KiaraWorth-8, CreativeCommons

LOSS and DAMAGE. Two words with so much meaning. For some it means the difference between hope and despair and for others it means facing costs and responsibilities. This year’s UN Climate Change Conference Of the Parties in Sharm El-Sheikh Egypt, COP 27, was the first COP where Loss and Damage were put on the agenda. For some that was a win in itself, for some it meant trouble.

COP 27 cannot be considered a success, far from it. It was only in the last minute the line on 1.5 degree Celsius target was kept. And a lot in the outcome text presented after two days overtime of negotiations, are missing. For example, much needed climate actions to drastically reduce emissions were not addressed. It is clear that the decision makers in Sharm El-Sheikh have not listened to what science tells us: e.g. that emissions peak before 2025 is necessary, the phase down of coal, and phase out of all fossil fuels is a must to limit global warming well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels. That is the goal of the Paris Agreement, a legally binding international treaty on climate change. It was adopted by 196 Parties at COP 21 in Paris, on 12 December 2015 and entered into force on 4 November 2016.

However, this year’s conference closed with a reported breakthrough agreement to provide “loss and damage” funding for vulnerable countries hit hard by climate disasters.

This outcome moves us forward,” said Simon Stiell, UN Climate Change Executive Secretary. “We have determined a way forward on a decades-long conversation on funding for loss and damage – deliberating over how we address the impacts on communities whose lives and livelihoods have been ruined by the very worst impacts of climate change.”

UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) reports that the decision means that Governments agreed to establish new funding arrangements, as well as a dedicated fund, to assist developing countries in responding to loss and damage. Governments also agreed to establish a ‘transitional committee’ to make recommendations on how to operationalise both the new funding arrangements and the fund at COP28 next year.

But, the outcome is hardly a victory to celebrate for the most vulnerable countries. Just imagine Pakistan, still struggling with the devastating floods earlier this year, as an example of the need for a loss and damage fund, with over 1700 lives lost and destruction of critical infrastructure, loss of schools for millions of children, hospitals and health centres destroyed and livelihoods, farms and homes gone. I can’t help wonder, can that ever be compensated for? The progress on loss and damage is indeed historic and has the potential to support and increase the support for the most vulnerable. But lots of work has to be done before that is a reality.

For me in my role as an advisor, working with environment, climate and development, I have followed the meeting with great intensity. Although not physically present, I have been able to follow both side events and official meetings. Reports, comments, tweets, live streams and various notifications have strangely, despite the seriousness and the gloomy tones, given me energy to continue work for climate justice and climate action. From this year’s COP, I especially take with me, an increased dedication of keep referring to science in all my advisory services and that all my recommendations should be Paris aligned.

Decisions taken at the Sharm El-Sheikh climate change conference can be accessed here:  Sharm el-Sheikh Climate Change Conference – November 2022 | UNFCCC

More information on the Paris Agreement can be accessed on UNFCCC webpage: The Paris Agreement | UNFCCC

The Division of Environmental Integration at SLU was established in 2018 and works for an increased environmental integration in various sectors in society. The division manages Sida’s Helpdesk for Environment and Climate Change in cooperation with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).



Video shoot with SLU Youth Institute


This blog post was written by Viktoria Wiklicky, Research Assistant at the Department of Energy and Technology; Environmental Engineering Unit, SLU and first published at the blog Kretsloppsteknik.

To promote SLU Youth Institute and the advantages for high schools becoming part of it, Viktoria Wiklicky was invited to talk about the Black Soldier Flies in their 2022 launching video. Fly larva composting is a tool to close the loop of a now linear food production system and aims to make food production more circular. Promoting the technology to the next generation will ensure that our passion and our ideas will be continued in the future.

SLU Youth Institute aims to create interest among Swedish youth for global food security and to find sustainable solutions to the global challenges based on the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The programme was founded 2020 and is part of the many Youth Institutes coordinated by World Food Prize Foundation. High school students engage with local leaders and experts to discuss critical global challenges, participate in hands-on activities, and explore exciting ways to make a difference in Sweden, across Europe and around the world. By the way, also the larvae showed their best side in the spotlight of the cameras and luckily, cameras cannot record smell (yet).