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Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka Mangrove Conservation Project


Seacology, in collaboration with Sri Lanka-based NGO Sudeesa, worked to make Sri Lanka the world’s first nation to protect all of its mangrove forests.

Date Approved: 05.2015


This project protects mangroves, which trap more CO2 than any other kind of forest and as a result, slow global warming.

The Sri Lanka Mangrove Conservation Project was the largest and most far-reaching initiative in Seacology’s history. The project protected all 21,782 acres (8,815 hectares) of Sri Lanka’s existing mangrove forests by providing alternative job training and microloans to approximately 12,000 impoverished women who live in 1,500 small communities adjacent to the nation’s mangrove forests. The project also replanted 9,600 acres (3,885 hectares) of mangrove forests that have been cut down, using seedlings raised in three Seacology-funded mangrove nurseries.

In exchange for receiving microloans to start small businesses, all 1,500 communities were be responsible for protecting an average of 21 acres of mangrove forest. A first-of-its kind mangrove museum to educate the public about the importance of preserving this resource and a large training and community center in the country’s formerly war-torn north was also built.

Seacology harnessed local NGO Sudeesa’s experience in implementing job-training and microfinance programs, fields in which Sudeesa has been a leader for more than 15 years. This partnership offered many more impoverished Sri Lankans alternative ways to earn a living that do not entail cutting down mangroves.

The project was launched with a budget of US$3.4 million over five years. Thanks in part to a generous match by Board of Directors member Peter Read, we reached that original fundraising goal. A grant from the Global Resilience Partnership allowed us to expand the scope of our work in Sri Lanka and raise the budget to over $4 million.

Project Updates

July 2023

Thanks to the generosity of our donors, the Lanka Mangrove Museum reopened on July 26, 2023, World Mangrove Day. The unique museum held a festive celebration attended by mangrove experts and many local students. Read more here.

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April 2023

Beginning April 22, 2023—Earth Day—you can help reopen the Sri Lanka mangrove museum! Due to Sri Lanka’s ongoing economic crisis, the facility has been mostly closed since the pandemic forced it to shut its doors in 2020. Our annual crowdfunding campaign seeks to provide enough funding to keep the museum running at full capacity for two years as the country’s economy recovers. Learn more and donate here.

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June 2020

This enormous, challenging, and successful project has been completed! Thousands of mangroves were planted, thousands of women got business training and microloans, and the crucial issue of mangrove conservation received worldwide attention. For more, check out our Sri Lanka summary.

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June 2019

More than 11,000 women and youth have completed livelihood training, after which they can receive microloans through the project. Because loans are repaid to local groups of women (Community Beneficiary Organizations), money stays in the community and furthers self-determination and economic development.

Read more

February 2019

There are now 1,500 community beneficiary organizations (CBOs) throughout the country, which facilitate alternative job training for women and youth and organize mangrove protection and replanting. About 1200 acres have been replanted with more than 775,000 seedlings. The Sri Lankan navy continues to help with the rearing and planting efforts.

Read more

September 2018

We’re excited to announce that this project won a 2018 Momentum for Change climate action award! Momentum for Change is a United Nations initiative, seeking innovative solutions to the challenges posed by a changing climate.

Our project, a collaboration with Sri Lankan NGO Sudeesa and the Sri Lankan government, was among four recipients of the award in the “Planetary Health” category. As part of the award, it was featured in a video narrated by Sir David Attenborough.

“These inspirational leaders, from communities, governments, businesses and organizations, come from all corners of the globe and all levels of society,” says United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres. “Their winning projects range from transformative financial investments to women-led solutions to protect people and the planet. Through their leadership and creativity, we see essential change.”

Read more

August 2018

The Mannar training center officially opened on July 27, 2018.

You can see a video about the center here.

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February 2018

Members of Seacology’s staff and board of directors recently visited our project sites in Sri Lanka. The training center in Mannar funded by last year’s Global Resilience Partnership grant is almost complete and is scheduled to officially open later this year.

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March 2017

The project has been named a winner of the Global Resilience Partnership’s Water Window Challenge. We’re delighted that the project will receive an additional nearly $1 million to expand in the northern and eastern regions of Sri Lanka.

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July 2016

Seacology and Sudeesa celebrated World Mangrove Day by officially opening the Mangrove Museum. President Maithripala Sirisena was on hand for a ribbon-cutting as guests, including Seacology cofounder Dr. Paul Cox, Executive Director Duane Silverstein, Program Manager Karen Peterson, and several board members enjoyed the exhibits in the beautiful new building.

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June 2016

So far, 283 community-based organizations have been formed so that their members can receive sustainable livelihood training. Almost 500 women have attended three-day training programs on livelihoods and small business practices. Already, 194 women have created small business plans and received microloans, and 278 youths have attended two-day trainings.

During the devastating floods that hit Sri Lanka earlier this month, the Mundala nursery experienced some inundation. Fortunately, the damage was not extensive.

Read more

May 2016

Construction of the Seacology-Sudeesa Mangrove Museum is progressing as scheduled. Contractors have begun installing the displays. The museum is scheduled to open at a ceremony on World Mangrove Day, July 26, 2016, with the President of Sri Lanka, Maithripala Sirisena, presiding. Seacology is planning a trip for interested supporters to attend the ceremony and to tour project sites.

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April 2016

Three mangrove nurseries, in Pambala, Kalipitiya, and Mundalama, are operational, and a total of 161,250 mangrove seedlings have been propagated. Over the next two years, this total will reach 500,000. The nurseries now employ 50 people for plant maintenance, propagation, and seed collection. The nursery in Pambala will also be used to teach job training participants how to propagate mangroves as part of reforestation efforts in their home districts.

Read more

March 2016

Seacology Board member Peter Read generously offered to match donations to the project, bringing us within $60,000 of the project’s fundraising goal.

Read more

February 2016

The president of Sri Lanka, Maithripala Sirisena, spoke and planted a mangrove seedling at Sudeesa’s headquarters in observation of World Wetlands Day.

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January 2016

The demarcation of Sri Lanka’s mangroves has been completed, with the nation’s Forest Department confirming Sri Lanka has about 37,000 acres of intact habitat and 9,600 of deforested area. Three large mangroves nurseries have been established and have already propagated more than 140,000 plants to replant these blighted areas, an effort that will be overseen by a coalition of the country’s top mangrove experts. Members of the Sri Lankan navy have conducted some replanting on 34 islands near Kalpitiya and Puttlam Lagoons. The mangrove museum at Pambala is under construction, with plans to open to the public on World Mangrove Day, July 26.

The community development aspect of the project has begun as well, with 92 of the 1,500 local organizations formed as of the end of 2015. Already, 1,892 women and youth have received job training, and 140 women have received microloans through the program.

Read more

May 2015

We have now officially launched the project, and Executive Director Duane Silverstein signed a formal agreement with the leadership of Sudeesa and the Sri Lankan government.

Read more
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Why Mangroves?

These resilient trees, which take root in the mud below shallow water, provide shelter from predators for the young of many reef fish species, replenishing fisheries and supporting the livelihoods of those who depend on them.

They dissipate the force of tropical storms and reduce damage to coastal communities.

And perhaps most important, mangroves sequester up to 50 times more carbon than other ecosystems, playing a key role in efforts to mitigate climate change.

Media coverage

CNN, February 6, 2020
How Sri Lanka’s mangrove forests can save lives

United Nations Climate Change, September 26, 2018
“15 Projects Win 2018 UN Climate Action Award”

RE.THINK, August 23, 2018
“Building resilience one mangrove forest at a time”

CNN Travel, August 3, 2017
Explore the unexpected beauty of Sri Lanka’s mangroves

Devex, March 21, 2017
Why the momentum for mangroves?

East Bay Times, March 17, 2017
Berkeley conservation group wins $1 million grant for Sri Lanka project (reposted at Daily Mirror)

Resurgence & Ecologist Magazine, November/December, 2016
Sri Lanka protects mangrove forests

Reuters, August 3, 2016
Sri Lanka success whets international appetite for mangrove conservation

PMD News, July 27, 2016
President opens Mangrove Museum

San Francisco Chronicle [via AP], July 26, 2016
Sri Lanka to conserve climate-friendly mangroves ecosystem

BBC News, July 26, 2016
Sri Lanka prime minister: Mangroves curb climate threat

Mongabay, July 26, 2016
Sri Lanka set to become first nation to protect all mangroves

Rise and Shine (video), March 17, 2016
Seacology’s Karen Peterson and Aaron Rashba and Sudeesa’s Dr. Herath Dissananayake discuss progress

Reuters, June 8, 2015
Women to Power Sri Lanka’s Mangrove Conservation Plan

ClimateWire, May 18, 2015
Sri Lanka Becomes First Nation to Place All Mangroves Under Protection

BBC Science, May 12, 2015
Sri Lanka First Nation to Protect All Mangrove Forests (PDF)

Geographical Magazine (UK), May 12, 2015
Saviours of Sri Lanka’s Mangroves

The Guardian (UK), May 12, 2015
Sri Lanka to Become the First Nation in the World to Protect All Its Mangroves (PDF)

See all of Seacology’s press coverage

Video updates from Sudeesa

Some Project Beneficiaries

Thavanesan Rageshwary comes from a a family of three in Vidathaltheevu in Mannar district. Rageshwary had been running a small retail shop before joining the Seacology-Sudeesa Sri Lanka Mangrove Conservation Program. After attending a three-day training, she obtained a Rs10,000 microloan and was able to expand her business, adding food items. She now earns an additional income of about Rs5000.00 per month and intends to develop her business further using the management skills gained by the program.

P.Consee, lives in Karambe, Kalpitiya, Puttalam district in a family of four. Consee and her husband, a cook, have two children and their income was not enough for day-to-day living. She has tried to secure alternative income opportunities and initiated a tailoring business, which increased the family’s income. Meanwhile, she became a member of a CBO established under the Seacology-Sudeesa Sri Lanka Mangrove Conservation Project. Through the CBO, she has been able to acquire knowledge and experience. With this additional knowledge, she has been able to improve her business and has gained a greater appreciation for environmental conservation. Where before she only offered her tailoring services on-demand for the surrounding community, she is now planning to purchase cut-pieces and produce ready-made cloths based on her own design. She intends to apply for a Rs10,000 loan from the project for this purpose.

Ivon Sama Perera lives in Vannimundalama, Puttalam district in a family of three. Sama was born in a fishing family in Bathalangunduwa, an area affected by the war, and fled to Wannimundalama with her husband. After relocating they had to undergo many hardships due to loss of their previously satisfactory income and fishing equipment. Her husband had also fallen sick and was unable to work. Sama has taken responsibility to support her family through several activities. She fishes, prepares and sells short eats (snacks) and breakfasts, and processes dry fish and Kajan leaves of coconut trees, used by people for shelter and many other activities. After receiving training under the Seacology-Sudeesa Mangove Conservation ProgramS, she started production of snack foods with a Rs10,000 microloan. She has registered this business and is happy with the additional income. “What is more important to me from the training provided is the knowledge that I acquired on business management, and inculcating a culture for saving money for the future,” she says.

Nerina sujeewani Kurakkanhena, lives in Kalpitiya in Puttalum district in a family of five. Nerina, being the elder daughter of the family, left school after fifth grade to support her family. After joining as a community member of the program, she participated in the seven-day youth training program conducted by Sudeesa. She has opened a retail shop with a Rs 10,000 microloan obtained from the microfinance component of the program and now earns revenue of about Rs1500 per day with a daily profit of about Rs150. She is planning to get a second loan after repayment of the first to improve her business further.

Sumeda Malani lives in Kurakkanhena, Kalpitiya, Puttalum district in a family of five. Sumeda produces sweets. In this photo, she is making a confection produced using coconut milk blended with sugar or honey. Processing needs high temperature and continuous stirring until the entire mix gets hard. Sumeda started this business with a Rs10,000 loan from the microfinance component of the Seacology-Sudeesa Sri Lanka Mangrove Conservation Program to increase her family income in addition to her husband’s efforts. She used the funding to purchase equipment necessary for sweets production. She is planning to construct a hut and continue her business more systematically, after which she will be able to register the company.

Sri Lankan women participate in a three-day training session for community members at Iranawila village, in Puttalum District. Under the Seacology-Sudeesa Sri Lanka Mangrove Conservation Project, 7,500 women will participate in three-day training sessions and 7,500 youth will attend seven-day sessions. 1,500 Community-Based Organizations around 48 lagoons in 14 coastal districts of the country will be offered these services. For the women, a consolidated, focused training is conducted over three days as many of the women cannot afford to be away from their residences for a longer period. Topics covered include mangrove conservation, business management, and livelihood development. Each CBO agrees to support conservation of 8.5 ha (21 acres) of mangrove area replant 2.5 ha (6 acres).