Being a new volunteer, clocking in at just two weeks on this Project, I have only participated in two Mangrove Mondays so far, and both have been hard but rewarding work.
The first Mangrove Monday we spent the entire morning at a local village called Vunibau, building an extension to the already-existing nursery to expand the area available for propagule planting by another thousand. Holes were dug, bamboo pillars erected, beams latched on to the pillars, and netting spread across the new structure to provide shade and protection for the mangroves. Then came the actual planting, just as equally methodical: holes were cut into the bottom halves of plastic bottles repurposed as pots to allow drainage and filled with soil brought from the nearby river, and propagules were planted and arranged in neat ten by ten rows under the new nursery wing.
Everyone pitched in, even the little village children who were off from school, who helped around with odd jobs and went to collect more propagules for us along the river. And while the task may sound arduous, it was in fact punctuated with laughter, casual chit-chatter, and lots of fun. It was quite a sight to see volunteers on each other’s shoulders struggling to maintain their balance as they worked to tie off the beams to the pillars. During our brief moments of rest, we engaged in games with the children, which involved a lot of singing and excited shrieking.
Having planted the entirety of our propagules, we moved on in the afternoon to an area across the river, carrying two large bucketfuls of five hundred grown propagules each. These ones were grown at the Project nursery, and had successfully sprouted a sturdy root system which we were now to plant a metre apart alongside the muddy bank in hopes of growing a mangrove forest. As expected, we all ended up a little muddy, but nonetheless got the job done in record time!
My second Mangrove Monday was a more relaxed affair. This time, with a smaller group of volunteers, we worked at the Project nursery. I was on weeding with two others, and we moved our way down row upon row of sprouting propagules, pulling out the grasses which have carpeted the pot soil with great fervour. Meanwhile, the others formed an efficient chain of movement where one sorted and tossed plastic halves to volunteers who filled them up with earth, who then passed it on to two others who brought the bring the newly-filled pots to the back of the nursery where they awaited planting.
When that was all and done, we loaded up a set of 147 planted propagules in pretty Fiji Water bottles and brought them over to Uprising, the nearby resort. Having partnered up in an effort to make them a carbon-neutral business, the first stage was finally ready to kick off. We arranged them in an attractive manner on a shaded table along the main walkway so that they would be visible to patrons as they walked past, giving them the knowledge that they are supporting an eco-conscious business. Of course, having just a little over a hundred mangroves is not enough to offset the pollution of a resort- we still have 191 more to go!
All in all, Mangrove Mondays serve as a critical aspect of the conservation we are currently doing here in Fiji. As it is with gardening, it does tend to get messy, but the results are priceless- lower carbon emissions, fish population growth, coastal line protection- all of which lead to a better ocean and a better environment.