Vida Manglar (Spanish for ‘mangrove life’) is a “blue carbon” project to conserve and restore 7,500 hectares (18,500 acres) of coastal mangrove forests in Cispatá Bay in Colombia’s Sinú River basin. Able to store more carbon on average than any other type of tree, mangroves are essential for climate change mitigation.
Over its 30-year lifespan, the Vida Manglar project expects to expand operations to protect a total of 11,000 hectares (27,000 acres) and sequester close to 1 million metric tons of carbon. That’s roughly the equivalent of taking 184,000 cars off the road.
As a market-driven conservation solution, high-quality carbon credits are generated from the project and sold via the voluntary carbon market. In a cyclical fashion, the Vida Manglar project returns 92 percent of its carbon credit proceeds to local people who decide how revenues are allocated.
The mangrove forest gives us so much. It shelters us from the winds, and provides food and resources. For us, it’s like a protective mother. Our goal is to conserve it for the future.
Ignacia de la Rosa Pérez
Leader of the San Antero community in the Cispatá region
Theory of change
Conservation International has been collaborating with local partners (see below) to protect coastal mangrove forests across the Sinú River basin on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. Carbon revenues from the sale of credits are reinvested in Vida Manglar to fund further conservation efforts.
The project drives mangrove conservation in close collaboration with the local community. An entirely local team organizes near-weekly workshops with those living inside the conservation area to ensure the community is engaged and can shape the project’s future.
Mangroves sequester more carbon from the atmosphere than any other type of tree. This is why conserving Cispatá’s coastal forests is absolutely essential for global climate change mitigation. Our project places an economic value on mangroves and the carbon they store, allowing us to fund their long-term conservation.
María Claudia Díazgranados Cadelo
Blue Carbon Director, Conservation International
Mitigating global climate change
Despite occupying just 0.1 percent of the Earth’s land, mangroves hold enormous potential for climate change mitigation: A single square mile of mangroves can hold as much carbon as the annual emissions of 90,000 cars.
It is expected that the project will sequester nearly 1 million metric tons of carbon over its lifespan. Already, within the project’s first monitoring period Vida Manglar reported a 69 percent reduction in unplanned deforestation*.
Encouraged by the project’s success, the government of Colombia is hoping to replicate it in six other locations along the Caribbean coast.
*This figure is based on a comparison with the projected annual deforestation rate in the project area.
Land management planning
Carbon revenue is used to finance training and equipment to encourage local engagement with the Vida Manglar project. As a result, many different mangrove associations are increasingly involved with land management, working to clear waterways, gather soil samples for carbon assessments and monitor biodiversity around the bay.
Mangrove associations are community-based organisations formed of participants from across the region. These associations receive permits to extract a certain amount of wood from the forest each year. The project also invites these associations to sign conservation agreements, in which signatories agree to protect the forest in exchange for financial and technical support. To date, 14 such agreements have been signed.
The mangrove associations are also represented in the project’s governance structure, providing them with a platform for sharing concerns and solutions.
Nature and biodiversity
Mangroves are central to the health and biodiversity of their ecosystems. Their root systems provide nutrient-rich breeding grounds for fish which, in turn, attract migratory birds.
Carbon finance is directed to monitoring other native species, such as manatees, otters and crocodiles — species that attract ecotourism.
To protect biodiversity, Vida Manglar is implementing a system of channels to restore and maintain tidal flow into the interior of the forest, preventing damaging levels of salt buildup from seawater.
Vida Manglar returns 92 percent of the profits from credit sales to local people and are allocated in two ways. Firstly, based on the project’s management plan, Vida Manglar holds a list of activities requiring investment. These activities are supported by carbon finance, administered by a partner, Fondo Acción. Secondly, contracts are signed with the mangrove associations to carry out specific agreed-upon activities.
Carbon finance has enabled Vida Manglar to employ 11 local experts to run daily operations in Cispatá Bay. It has also opened up more casual labor opportunities for at least 12,000 people living either in or close to the project area.
Outside of the project itself, carbon revenues are also supporting locally led, independent initiatives. One notable success has been investment in female-led beekeeping initiatives. Between 2019 and 2022, three local associations signed voluntary agreements to develop and implement their business models, using carbon finance to boost market access.
Assurances in Cispatá Bay
In 2021, the Vida Manglar Project became the first blue carbon project to be accredited by Verra under the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) and issued its first carbon credits. It has been awarded gold-level Climate Community & Biodiversity (CCB) certification due to the outstanding beyond-carbon benefits it offers the local communities of San Antero and San Bernardo del Viento.
In the absence of this project, 7,500 hectares of mangrove forest would remain vulnerable to clearance due to the pressures placed on the region.Yet Vida Manglar ensures that Cispata’s mangroves can continue to remove carbon from the atmosphere, improve the overall health of the region’s biodiversity and improve the livelihoods of local people.
A risk assessment has been conducted to determine the areas where sea-level rise is most likely to be felt. In addition, Vida Manglar aims to build appreciation for standing mangroves among local people, boosting community buy-in and disincentivizing future human-led destruction.
Sustainable Development Goals
The Vida Manglar project addresses the following goals (learn more about SDGs):
The main goal of Vida Manglar is to create a sustainable source of income for the community that will support the mangroves. Without this revenue, we wouldn’t be able to fund the work to protect this ecosystem, which has so many local and global benefits.
Vice President, CI-Colombia
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Conservation at work in Cispatá Bay
We break down “blue carbon,” a term you may not have heard of but which has immense importance for curbing climate change. LEARN MORE: https://www.conservation.org/blog/what-on-earth-is-blue-carbon
Colombia’s Marine and Coastal Research Institute (INVEMAR)
Corporación Autónoma Regional del Valle del Sinú (CVS)
Corporación Autónoma Regional de Sucre (CARSUCRE)
Community-based associations of mangrove workers
In compliance with California Assembly Bill 1305 (2023), Conservation International shares the following information on its supported carbon projects: Vida Manglar Carbon Project Disclosure