Making Mangroves: Ecologies of Mangrove Restoration in El Salvador, 2011-2013
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Mangrove restoration for climate mitigation based in adaptation is a national environmental policy in the Republic of El Salvador. Rural, resource-reliant communities are considered especially vulnerable to extreme weather events associated with global climate change, and mitigation based in adaptation is an intervention intended to reduce vulnerability and enhance ecological service provision from mangrove systems. The Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) program of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is supposed to provide guidance towards funding sources. Critical scholars from Geography and other branches of the social sciences have suggested that due to its similarities to other market-based payments-for-ecosystem-services (PES), REDD+ deepens socioeconomic inequalities in rural communities and promotes poverty, while it does nothing to mitigate climate extremes. Some scholars have called this “carbon colonialism”. This research examines those claims through a mixed-methods case study based on fieldwork in El Salvador. It engages the literatures of restoration ecology and the “new carbon economy”, and uses a governmentality framework provided by anthropologist Tania Murray Li to analyze processes whereby ecological mangrove restoration became adopted, adapted and appropriated in the Lower Lempa region of El Salvador. Ecological processes include restoration ecology (manipulating nature to reach a desired state), cultural ecology (use of resources by people), and political ecology (the ways power relations determine access to resources). The results show that throughout the mangrove restoration governance network, people adapt and appropriate knowledge and techniques in order to reconcile state restoration policy with their own ideological, social and material interests. Within the context of climate change in a globalized world, I found no evidence to support the claim that poor, resource-reliant rural Salvadorans were being subjected to coercive pressure to relinquish territory, or had access to critical resources restricted by the state, or had been deprived of voice, autonomy and agency in the process of laboring for the state, as would be predicted by claims of neocolonialism. Although the restoration workers remained poor and subject to climate extremes, they were not excluded from benefiting from the restoration process.
Wilmot, Fiona Coralie (2014). Making Mangroves: Ecologies of Mangrove Restoration in El Salvador, 2011-2013. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from