The Mami Wata Expert Workshop in Libreville, Gabon 15-17 February 2017.
From the 15-17 February 2017, the Mami Wata project organised an expert workshop in Libreville, Gabon, convening key stakeholders of the project, experts and country representatives. The event marked a critical step towards integrated ocean management policy framework for the Abidjan Convention member states.
The management of human activities in marine and coastal ecosystems is often challenging.Traditionally, several sectoral Ministries may be involved, and these do not always share the same objectives in their respective management decisions – and may also not be tasked to consider other activities beyond their immediate mandate in their management or assess cumulative environmental impacts. Consequently, conflicts concerning the usage of ocean ecosystems between different groups and interests may arise. As such, an Integrated Ocean Management (IOM) approach is seen as beneficial, because it brings together all relevant stakeholders, including government bodies and societal sectors for a more effective and holistic management of the ocean.
The workshop convened key stakeholders of the project for participatory group discussion and sharing of experiences. Regional centers such as RAPAC and RAMPAO, as well as country representatives from Gabon, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Senegal and South Africa, were present. The event was opened by Mr. Athanase Nthanga, the Secretary General of the Ministry of Forestry, Water, Fisheries and Aquaculture, responsible for the environment and nature protection. Among the presentations, the host country, Gabon, highlighted the ‘Gabon Bleu’ initiative and the establishment of a national council for the sea, which is working towards more effective management of marine activities and marine resources issues – from oil exploration to illegal fisheries and piracy.
Other countries presented their experiences with IOM and with applying CBD Criteria for Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas (EBSAs), Marine Spatial Planning (MSP), and State of Marine Environment reporting (SoME). The presentations were complemented by key inputs from international experts.
Building on the shared experience and discussions, the participants agreed that there is a need to move towards integrated ocean management as part of a broader strategy of valuing the ocean and its ecosystems, and harnessing its benefits to improve the livelihoods of the people of the region. While highlighting the major steps already taken in moving towards IOM, the workshop participants also pointed to the several challenges including human capacity, technology transfer and the need for ongoing high level political support.
Technical and institutional capacity for ecosystem-based management will be developed in the project through pilot projects, centers of expertise, knowledge sharing and training.
“This is an important opportunity for the member countries of the Abidjan Convention to share their experience in integrated ocean management, and to map out a pathway to improved ocean management. The Mami Wata project will support the member countries in this journey and will lead to ecosystem health and benefit livelihoods of the people that depend on it, fulfilling several of the SDGs”