The group of women mangrove restorers known as “The Chelemeras” have won the Local Hero award at the Ocean 2023 awards organized by “Boat International” and “Blue Marine Foundation” organizations, which recognize individuals or groups carrying out extraordinary activities to save the seas.
Within their category, there were 94 nominees for the distinction, but the judges decided to recognize the Yucatecan restorers as the winners of this award, which acknowledges community groups whose work has positive impacts on the marine environment.
The work of “The Chelemeras” began in 2010 when the mangrove area surrounding the fishing village of Chelem and its lagoon was designated a protected area within the Yucatán Natural Reserve.
Since then, the collective of 18 women native to the port located in the municipality of Progreso, Yucatán, has been involved in the restoration process of the mangrove forest. Mangroves are ecosystems responsible for preventing coastal erosion, protecting coral reefs and nearby seagrass meadows, and acting as powerful absorbers of carbon dioxide.
The project started thanks to the intervention of Dr. Jorge Herrera-Silveira from the Primary Production Laboratory at Cinvestav and Claudia Teutli from the National School of Higher Studies of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (ENES-UNAM). They noticed the degradation of mangroves along the Yucatán coastline, mainly caused by roads, bypasses, vehicular bridges, and harbors for navigation.
The recognition did not come for free, as their work involves physically demanding tasks. Guided by expert scientists, the women dig new channels and clean existing ones to reconnect the mangrove lagoons with the sea, ensuring that the roots of these plants have sufficient access to water and can thrive.
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