Recognising the local values of coastal wetland biodiversity for sustainable economic and livelihood development at Résidences La Chaux ‘Barachois’, Mauritius

In Satoyama Initiative Thematic Review vol. 5: Understanding the Multiple Values associated with Sustainable Use in Socio-ecological Production Landscapes and Seascapes (SEPLS)
Chapter: Chapter 2

Barachois is a term used to describe a historical seascape in Mauritius, composed of brackish water lagoons enclosed by stone walls traditionally used for fish farming under French rule before 1800. The description includes the patches of mangroves and coastal woodlands surrounding the lagoons. However, these areas are now mostly abandoned and have been turned into waste dumping grounds. The Environmental Protection & Conservation Organisation (EPCO) initiated a community-based project to pilot the restoration of the Barachois seascape that enhances its socio-economic, cultural, aesthetic and environmental values, thereby improving local people’s livelihoods and promoting biodiversity conservation. As a part of the appraisal and implementation process, the project investigated multiple values that stakeholders in the target community associate with the Barachois seascape by conducting household surveys and focus-group discussions. All stakeholder groups that we investigated, i.e., fishermen, tour guides, women, youth and senior members of the community unanimously noted the importance of two major functions of the Barachois seascape. These were a shelter against coastal hazards such as cyclones and storms; and fish reproduction. Barachois is also a major source of crabs, and these are mainly harvested by youths for household consumption. Some value aspects were perceived differently among stakeholder groups. Tour guides appreciated the value of the Barachois waterbody and endemic birds as tourist attractions. Women and senior citizens tended to appreciate the beauty of the seascape and animals. Women emphasised the importance of Barachois for children to learn how to swim and to understand more about the natural environment. By recognising the value that Barachois seascape brings to the local community, the project was able to gain stronger commitment from a wide range of stakeholders for the restoration of the Barachois, ensuring sustainable resource management of the area, and resulting in the establishment of a local cooperative. This process has improved local decision-making capacity and will contribute to the harmonisation of legislation in the future.