Participants from five West African countries gathered to learn more and exchange about the theory and practice of Marine Spatial Planning.
From 3-7 February 2020, participants from Ivory Coast, Mauritania, São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal and Togo gathered in São Tomé for a Blue Planning in Practice (BPiP) training course. The BPiP training courses, developed by the Blue Solutions Initiative in 2016 and regularly organized in coastal regions since then, are aimed at enabling planners, practitioners and decision-makers to engage with Marine Spatial Planning (MSP).
The BPiP training course addresses MSP both from a theoretical and a practical standpoint through a case study method conveying the teaching messages through interactive and practical exercises. It deals with a fictitious country, Bakul, which allows participants to discuss different aspects of MSP outside their specific national work context, while still involving close to real-life conditions and challenges.
The course was opened by Mr. Osvaldo D’Abreu, Minister of Public Works, Infrastructure, Natural Resources and the Environment of São Tomé and Príncipe, together with Mr. Richard Dacosta from the Abidjan Convention Secretariat, with Mr. Arlindo de Carvalho, National Coordinator of the WACA project in São Tomé and Príncipe, and with Mr. Laurent Mehdi Brito, Senior Procurement Specialist, on behalf of the World Bank.
During the course, exercises and discussions revolved around the following topics: ecosystem services; the organization of the MSP process; the identification and mapping of stakeholders and their interests; the inventory of current and future conditions; the identification of spatial incompatibilities; the assessment of geospatial data needs; the preparation and negotiation of the plan; and the mapping of the seascape and the allocation of marine spatial uses.
Throughout the course, participants gained theoretical knowledge on the MSP process and its steps, and became acquainted with the different analyses to be carried out during each planning phase. The debates held helped address doubts and questions, and consider different planning alternatives. Participants also had the opportunity to share the progresses made in MSP in their home countries and to learn from each other’s experiences. Finally, they designed work plans with the next steps to advance their national MSP processes over the course of the coming six months.
While the training in São Tomé mainly focused on the preparatory and initial phases of the planning cycle – because the participating countries are in the early planning phases – final planning steps such as implementation, monitoring or evaluation were not addressed. These later stages are however set to be the subject of future trainings. Indeed, more national level trainings are to be developed shortly in the region in order to develop capacities and to fulfill the context-specific needs of West African countries regarding marine ecosystem-based planning and management.
Finally, the training course also comprised a field trip to Santana, a coastal village located 14 kilometers south from the capital of São Tomé, which provided participants with an opportunity to engage with the local fishers’ community of Messias Alves. Santana is the set of an interesting coexistence between the local fisherfolk and the new eco-tourism facilities of Club Santana, surrounded by impressive natural features. In Santana, the traditional small-scale fisheries constitute a tourist attraction, whilst fishermen generate income from selling their catch to the hotel. A shared meal between fishers and participants of the course in the Messias Alves community centre, allowed for an enriching exchange of views and stories.
Reflecting on the five days of training, Mario Caña, Marine Expert at GRID-Arendal and trainer for Blue Solutions commented “This is not the typical course where trainers display long presentations and provide loads of information to participants. Instead, BPiP gives teaching messages mainly through the practical work performed by the participants and the debates that follow”, before positively adding “As a first-time BPiP trainer, I was impressed to see the interest and readiness expressed by the trainees during each lesson or exercise. I believe that the knowledge and experience they gained will be an important asset to the MSP processes in their home countries”.
Mario CAÑA & Louis PILLE-SCHNEIDER
Pictures : Mario Caña & Cristiano da Costa