At Agilité, we’re hyper-aware of the knock-on impact construction can have on the oceans and our planet’s water, which isn’t something that can be left unchecked. That’s why we’re proactively working towards reducing those negative impacts in our own operations and services. What’s more, we’ve also committed to donating 3% of our profits each year to help projects which we believe can help the building industry be more sustainable.

So, to celebrate all-things-socially-conscious, share tips for smarter environmental thinking, and remind each other just how much our impact matters, we’re inviting colleagues and friends of the business to take part in our quickfire Q&A. 

First up, it’s Dominic Wodehouse PhD, executive director of Agilité beneficiary, Mangrove Action Project (MAP).

Where do you fit into the environmental sector?

MAP is a small non-profit organisation, focused on mangrove education and restoration training. We run workshops around the world in a bid to improve the outcomes of restorationists — in terms of mangrove survivorship and biodiversity — as well as working with schools to ensure the next generations conserve these precious ecosystems.

Surprisingly, despite the increased interest in ecosystems that sequester and store carbon, the volume of published mangrove science, and the collective experience from conservation projects around the world, survivorship of such planting projects is very low.

To combat this, we demonstrate the necessary biology, ecology, and restoration process and take attendees into the field so they can really understand the intricacies of the ecosystem. It’s complicated — as Facebook would say — and more complex than terrestrial forests.

We are delighted that Agilité has kindly opted to support our work, as well as granted me the opportunity to present to the team in Paris in February, to explain what we do in greater detail.

MAP presentation Paris

From left: Ahmed Senhaji, Neil Coales, Dominic Wodehouse, Carl Elia, Zeid Shehadeh, Vincent Joullié, and Morvan Dishaw

Tell us a little bit about your role at Mangrove Action Project…

I have the honour of running the best mangrove restoration training team in the world! My role includes developing the NGO’s strategy, leading the pitching to — and interaction with — funders, leading the restoration workshop training, carrying the bags, taking far too many photos at each workshop, and occasionally pulling people’s shoes out of mangrove mud.

What made you decide to join Mangrove Action Project?

Prior to life at MAP, I spent 10 years in advertising. I was a decade too late, and it felt like a humourless, political sweatshop. Leaving that industry was an easy decision. Working out what to do next, not so much.

A previous love of trees took me into arboriculture in the UK, as a way into tree-based conservation. Plenty of reading and an MSc revealed the ecosystem that was most interesting was mangroves. I began volunteering for MAP in Trang, in southern Thailand in 2005, and became hooked by a technical conference on the same trip. In a speech, Robin Lewis, the legendarily mangrove restorationist, said the mission required ‘informed supervision in the middle’ between the academics and ground teams, and from then I could see where the rest of my life was heading. A PhD and lots of restoration teaching later, I’m MAP’s executive director — how bonkers is that?!

What song perfectly sums up your working day?

Hard day’s night by The Beatles. Most of my days start around 9am and finish the following day.

Tell us a fact about mangroves that you think people need to know:

Facing a big incoming storm, they can literally make the difference between life and death for coastal communities. Chiefly because inhabitants had previously cleared their mangroves for rice farming, 110,000 people died and another 30,000 went ‘missing’ when Cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar in 2008. Those protected by mangroves largely survived.

Which sector do you think could achieve significant social progress this year?

I’m hoping the funding sector could change their approach to working with NGOs this year and move away from burying said organisations in reporting requirements and budget line restrictions, and instead letting trustworthy bodies get on with what they do best.

Secondly, I’m hoping that governments will realise the need for co-ordinated policy and activity. There’s no point an environment department trying to protect an ecosystem when another —often more powerful — part of the same government decides on a change of land use for that same area.

Thirdly, that groups and companies that engage in environmental work realise that often the solution is social and holistic, not technical. For example, rural projects often fail because the community leadership functions poorly. People have limited livelihood options because literacy is much more of a problem than the statistics would have us believe. Many long-term problems in poor areas can be solved by much better schooling for girls, and properly training the teachers themselves. Building a school is a simple task, but can sometimes miss the point. Developing a mechanism that ensures well-qualified educators turn up at the school every day and teach, rather than offer private lessons for more money, is difficult.

What role do you think technology can play in creating a more sustainable future?

Technology can help us to deal with the long time-lag of CO2 reduction. Even if we reduce output dramatically now, it will still take decades for the levels in the atmosphere to decrease.

What do you wish you’d known about the environment, as a child?

I wish I had known about the impact of all the stupid stuff we did — lead in petrol, DDT, pesticides, the rush into shrimp farming in the mangroves, encouraging people into cars — and been able to do something about it.

What’s the single biggest threat to mankind, in your opinion?

Positive feedback loops building each other, such as the thawing of the permafrost in northern Russia or the release of clathrate methane from the seabed. How these feedback loops interact is poorly understood.

Or Trump in 2024.

If you were country leader for the day, what’s the one thing you’d implement?

Sign an executive order that automatically bans anyone from politics who wants to be a politician – they are clearly in it for the wrong reasons!

What advice would you give to someone who wants to get involved in environmental activism or advocacy?

Develop — and follow — your passion. Don’t try to cover everything but engage in an area you can be knowledgeable and enthusiastic about. Keep reading. Link up with groups in that topic – you’ll be amazed by the different ways you can help. Intern where you can. Develop the skillsets that make you valuable to organisations within your area. Master’s yes, but don’t assume you need a PhD. Lots of NGOs are run poorly and what senior managers need is an MBA in NGO management, not a research degree. Be prepared to live poor and skip retirement. Learn to network like Henry Kissinger and present like a TEDTalk hero.

Complete the sentence – in 100 years’ time, I hope…

I hope that we are not sitting in front row seats for the sixth extinction.

At Agilité, we’re no stranger to charitable initiatives — having committed to donating 2% of our profits each year to help projects close to our hearts. And, recognising the harsh reality that construction creates a vast amount of CO2 — of which mangroves are a significant consumer — earlier this year, the Agilité team resolved to make a conscious effort to preserving such a precious resource.

We joined forces with the Mangrove Action Project (MAP), a 30-year-old cause which exists to preserve, conserve, and restore the vital ecosystem. We were impressed by the organisation’s grassroots, bottom-up approach to mangrove issues, and decided to make a sizable donation in support of the numerous initiatives all over the globe.

Agilité supports Mangrove Action Project 2022

Since our donation, the charity has had a busy calendar of activities, and we caught up with executive director, Dominic Wodehouse, to understand what our money has helped the team achieve…

Highlighting change in the Mangrove Photography Awards

The annual photography competition — organised and held by the Mangrove Action Project — aims to celebrate the beauty and diversity, while also shining a spotlight on the fragility of the world’s mangrove forests, and this year's entries were no exception.

The series of photographs — shot from all over the world — captures the rates of reforestation, deforestation, and climate change, and highlights the impact these issues have on plant populations. Referred to as ‘blue carbon ecosystems’, mangroves help to sequester and store carbon dioxide, but as such deforestation occurs, much of this carbon is instead released into the atmosphere — further advancing global warming.

Agilité supports Mangrove Action Project 2022

A mangrove restoration workshop in the Bahamas

In April, the MAP team joined Waterkeepers Bahamas and Earthcare in Grand Bahama to lead a restoration workshop at the Rand Nature Centre — home to a thriving mangrove nursery.

After Hurricane Dorian destroyed over 70% of the island’s forests in 2019, community groups have been working hard to restore such vital ecosystems and educate the public on their important environmental role, too.

Agilité supports Mangrove Action Project 2022

Restoration projects in Kenya

Collaborating with not-for-profit, Wetlands International East Africa, representatives from MAP travelled to Eastern Africa to lead a restoration session for members of the community.

Lamu County is home to over 60% of Kenya’s mangroves, which protect against coastal erosion and storm surges as well as providing a home to vast populations of fish and other wildlife. In addition, the plant has cultural and heritage significance in the region, with many structures, boats and other amenities being built using mangrove wood.

The workshop aimed to enhance understanding of mangrove ecology and improve project efficiencies across coastlines and was met with plenty of enthusiasm and discussion around further measures to protect such a precious resource.

To find out more about the Mangrove Action Project, head to the website. And, keep your eyes peeled for more details about our various charitable initiatives.

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