The workshop took place as part of the Integrated Marine and Coastal Zone Management (GIZMaC) national pilot project from 19-21 June 2019 in Cotonou.
In order to establish the conditions for the integrated development of its coastal zones while preserving these environments’ ecological balance, Benin is working on reinforcing its governance instruments, in accordance with the guidance of the Abidjan Convention. In order to cope with the weakening of its marine and coastal ecosystems, the country is currently implementing a national pilot project for Integrated Marine and Coastal Zone Management (GIZMaC). The two-year project aims to maintain the important ecosystem services on which the livelihoods and the well-being of coastal populations depend.
The national approval workshop for the EBSA descriptive report took place from 19 to 21 June 2019 at the Benin Royal Hotel in Cotonou, as part of the GIZMaC project. The workshop was organized by the General Directorate of Environment and Climate (DGEC) of the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development (MCVDD), with the financial and technical support of the German Federal Ministry of the Environment, Conservation of Nature and Nuclear Safety, the Abidjan Convention Secretariat, and GRID-Arendal. The workshop was attended by representatives of many national institutions and non-governmental organizations from Benin and West Africa.
The main objective of the workshop was to contribute to the implementation of the provisions of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) by approving the descriptive report of the EBSAs for Benin, as well as the mapping of these zones. More specifically, the workshop was an opportunity to present the report and the sites selected for the project to the participants, for their review and approval. Participants used the opportunity to reflect on possible management measures, such as the development of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).
At the end of the workshop, the report was unanimously approved and adopted by the participants. The following recommendations were made:
- Involve the Ministry of the Interior and Public Security, including the Fluvial Police and civil society organizations in the MPAs creation process;
- Set up a reviewing committee before sending the report to the CBD;
- Increase fishermen’s awareness to the soundness of infrastructures (submerged dikes) installed in the sea in Cotonou, Avlekété, etc. Indeed, these dikes serve as spawning grounds for fish, sea turtles, shrimps, etc., and hence contribute to the preservation of species and to the long term development of fishing and tourism.
Following the three presentations that constituted the technical session of the workshop (introduction to the EBSA process; descriptive report of the EBSAs; and presentation of the mapping of the identified EBSAs), on Friday 21 June the participants had the opportunity to visit the sites of the Bouche du Roy and Honhlihoue village in Avlo (Grand-Popo). These visits were an opportunity for experts and partners to discover the uniqueness of these sites, as well as the issues related to mangrove management on the salt island.
In the village, an exchange took place with the salt producing women of the Nonviha association, whose objective is to protect the mangroves. The village, where the people’s main activity is salt preparation, is surrounded by these trees that protect it from erosion and floods. But the anarchic use of mangroves for this activity is jeopardizing the survival of the entire ecosystem, and threatening the village to disappear. This problem requires the implementation of sustainable management measures. For this reason, partners are committed to supporting the Nonviha women in their struggle for the preservation of mangroves. Support will include the implementation of alternative activities including fish farming, livestock breeding, or trade, with the aim of reducing the pressure on mangroves.
Representing the Director General of the Environment and Climate of the MCVDD, Mr. Bertin Bossou, Director of Pollution Management, Nuisances and Environmental Police, stated: “it is urgent to implement safeguarding actions for a sustainable management of coastal and marine ecosystems in Benin. The workshop is therefore a big step in this direction, since the launch of the process that will eventually lead Benin towards the creation of MPAs depends on the approval of the descriptive report of the EBSAs”.
Ms. Alison Amoussou, representing the Abidjan Convention Secretariat, congratulated Benin “for its participation in this regional initiative that will allow the country to develop a long term integrated management of the ocean, with the aim of ensuring the preservation of the marine and coastal resources it hosts”.
The project specifically lays the foundations of an integrated approach to the management of marine areas through the implementation of three concrete decision-making tools: the identification and description of Ecologically or Biologically Significant Zones (EBSAs); a holistic and strategic approach to Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) for coastal development, based on the conservation of resources and on ecosystem services; and the development of a State of the Marine Environment report (SoME).