Photo by Jarrett Wrisley
In a tiny Muslim fishing village called Tamarind Cape, a mangrove swamp has been reborn.
Twenty-five years ago it was almost gone. Because Mangrove charcoal is prized across Southeast Asia for its cooking properties, a Thai logging company was making quick use of Tamarind Cape's limited supply of wood. As the swamp that once split the village in two started to shrink, the fisherman began to notice something. Their catch was disappearing too.
"Ninety-seven percent of the 600 people who live here depend on the sea," said Babu Nyansee, a 74-year-old Imam and the village headman of Tamarind Cape. Babu and I were sitting on the banks of an estuary, staring out at surreal towers of limestone that jut suddenly out of the sea in this part of the Thailand. "As the mangroves disappeared, we began to realize that it was affecting the fishery; all the fish we eat come here to spawn. And many of the things they eat do too. So, slowly, we brought the ecosystem back with the help of Yadfon, an NGO based in Trang."
The old man spoke slowly and deliberately. Though small and rail thin, he projects considered strength, and as we talked it was clear he was speaking for everyone in his village. Babu is an unlikely conservationist, and a defender of this fishing village's interests.