Centro Escola Mangue (CEM) develops environmental and educational activities focused on the relationship between people, nature, and culture. The organization was founded in 1993 and their primary target market is children, youth and adults in the local community.

CEM helps educate people in the local community about the mangrove, the importance of it in their lives, and why they have to preserve it.

Mangroves add tremendous value to the balance of the ecosystems for the rivers and seas, and vice versa. The mangrove is a nursery for many species that live in the sea and rivers, and around 2/3 of the species of fish that are sold and eaten depend on mangroves to survive. This role makes the mangrove one of the most important ecosystems in the world, because it is responsible to maintain the natural resources of the coastal zone. The mangrove is home to many species of shellfish, such as crabs and shrimps, which are very important for the Brazilian economy. And, the tangled structure of the mangrove roots offers protection to the species living there. The mangroves offer a safe haven from predators, and as a result the mangrove becomes a refuge for many different beings – from microorganisms to birds. The mangroves protect the coastline and banks of the estuary against erosion; prevents the level of sand in the sea raising up and as a result creating sand reefs that affect of passing of ships; and also prevents floods, because it reduces the force of water against the coast. The mangroves can absorb metals, such as mercury, from the water and as well absorbs carbon from the atmosphere. And, they can produce many different products that are useful for our lives, such as medicines, alcohol, tannin, and oils, among others.

The students of CEM have practical classes to learn how to produce and plant mangrove seedlings, and under the responsibility of the teachers, they learn how the plants from the mangrove develop and, usually with some help from the fishermen, they learn the importance of each one for the ecosystem.

CEM also works to empower women through courses of sewing, with what is called “mangrove fashion” (moda mangue). They use the waste from fishing, such as leather and fish scales, after being treated, to be material used by the women of the community to create handmade unique pieces inspired by the mangrove. This work offers job training and sustainability conditions for the women, who are residents of the neighborhood.

The organization also works with ecotourism, training the fishermen’s older children about conservation. The course integrates young people to environmental issues and at the same time provides an option for social inclusion, leaving them far from practices linked to violence.

Although the law guarantees the mangrove’s protection, domestic and chemical pollution and oil spills cause the destruction of the mangroves. They are also always under threat, because they’re based in a target area that is often good for port activities, for leisure activities, or for building factories and/or houses. And the problem is that the society doesn’t understand the real benefits generated by mangroves, and as a result, they are disinterested about it’s destruction.

CEM believes it is vital to awaken society to the importance of the mangroves, helping them understand why it’s important to preserve and conserve its biodiversity, whilst at the same time, providing instruments for sustainability of species and also income for many families living from activities within the environment. It’s important for people to know the importance of recycling; not throwing garbage in the environment, rivers or on the streets; and not dumping cooking oil into drains, amongst many other examples, so that they can start to improve their behaviour and therefore the way the mangrove is treated.

The organization is looking to develop a campaign that will raise awareness amongst the middle class about the importance of the mangroves and why it’s important to preserve it through the activities of CEM, as well as to look for future opportunities for partnerships with local businesses and professionals.