Students of Neykurendhoo, Haa Dhaalu Atoll, won prestigious awards in the 19th Mangrove Art Contest organized by the Mangrove Action Project (MAP) in September 2020.
After competing with submissions from 34 countries, three students from Neykurendhoo School were among those awarded first, second, and third places.
Students between the ages of 6 to 16 participated in the competition and submitted a total of 71 artworks.
This year’s theme of the international competition, held annually to raise awareness on the importance of mangroves, was “ why mangroves are important to the mangrove communities and the world”.
2020 marks the first time Maldives participated in the competition, and Neykurendhoo School was the sole official representation from the archipelago.
MAP is a US-based non-profit organisation that has worked on preserving, conserving and restoring the world’s mangrove forests for over 25 years.
Their art contest, this year, comes at a time when extraordinary die-offs have been observed at eleven mangrove wetlands across the Maldives, including the mangroves in Neykurendhoo.
Several concerns were raised by relevant parties over the massive die-off observed at Neykurendhoo’s wetlands since late 2019.
The Neykurendhoo Island Council immediately took action to conduct necessary research into the die-offs and to attract attention to the issue. They teamed up with the Save Maldives Campaign, MAP and IUCN MSG to understand the cause of the phenomenon and devise solutions to save the mangrove.
According to Save Maldives, the MAP Art Contest was an opportunity for Neykurendhoo students to depict the Maldivian wetlands for a global audience, since the archipelago is a ‘mangroves nation’ with more than 70 wetlands.
“Their involvement also contributes to advocacy efforts to raise awareness on the benefits of mangrove ecosystems”, the campaign noted.
In preparation for the competition, Neykurendhoo Council, MAP and Save Maldives Campaign held a series of online ‘Mangrove Classes’ to raise awareness and to educate students, parents and teachers on mangrove ecosystems.
The Save Maldives Campaign congratulated all the students who took part in the competition and those who won awards with their creative submissions.
According to Save Maldives, the winning artworks from the competition will be used for the 2021 MAP Calendar which will be gifted to participating schools along with certificates, in addition to being displayed in an online art exhibition that is currently being planned.
Moreover, the artworks will also be used by the #SaveNeykurendhooKandoofa campaign in coordination with the Neykurendhoo Island Council to push for substantial research and conservation efforts to combat the recent die-off.
”The Save Maldives Campaign believes that natural ecosystems are resources that must be better managed, with appropriate plans produced and implemented to sustainably manage and protect them”, Save Maldives asserted.
Noting that the preservation and restoration of mangroves is necessary to increase the resilience of the mangrove communities and their livelihoods, and to reduce disaster risk at a time of increased climate change impacts, the campaign highlighted the important role that schools can play in addressing the mangrove die-off.
“We believe that increased awareness among everyone in the community, including the young and the elderly, civil society groups, organizations and their active participation is essential for this effort”.