On 16 and 19 February 2019, the Mami Wata project organized two workshops gathering government officials, experts and researchers on Marine Spatial Planning.
How to prevent tensions between actors whose activities often conflict in a limited space? Can we claim an harmonious cohabitation and a beneficial complementarity between economic activities along coasts and in marine areas? These were some of the questions at the heart of the workshops organized by the Mami Wata project in Côte d’Ivoire and Benin respectively on 16 and 18 February 2019. The project works to promote human activities in an integrated and holistic way, ensuring balance between conservation and economic uses.
The workshops were a good opportunity for Dr. Adnan Awad, Director of the International Oceanic Institute (South Africa), to present beneficial opportunities offered by Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) as a decision support tool. In both Abidjan and Cotonou, Dr. Awad organized working sessions with his Ivorian and Beninese counterparts, aimed at discussing the benefits of MSP. Here, simulation exercises allowed experts from both countries to study best practices in order to bring together all the relevant actors involved in activities taking place in marine or coastal areas.
In Côte d’Ivoire, the Mami Wata team participated in three field trips with the GIAMAA (Integrated management of the marine and coastal area from Abidjan in Assinie) project team, led by Mrs. Marguerite Kouadio (Antipollution Center of Côte d’Ivoire). At Vridi 3, the team presented the project to artisanal fishermen, and could witness the existing tensions with industrial fishermen.
The port of Abidjan, first tuna port in Africa, faces an industrialization posing high threats to fish stocks in the area. Alerts issued by international organizations on this situation, as well as recurrent complaints of artisanal fishermen, particularly against the introduction of controversial fishing techniques such as the FAD (Fishing Aggregation Device), have led the Ivorian authorities to gather researchers and operators from the sector late December 2018 in Abidjan, in order to address these threats.
In Bassam (Abidjan), the team visited the mouth of the Comoé River, artificially closed since the 1950s and the construction of the port of Abidjan. According to Dr. Sankaré Yacouba, GIAMAA Project Advisor, “the closure of the Comoé River’s mouth has resulted in an increase of coastal erosion. Several reopening attempts have resulted in failures, particularly due to silting”. However, the government of Côte d’Ivoire wishes to open the mouth again. In order to support governmental decision making, Rob Barnes, digital communications expert at GRID-Arendal, provided the Mami Wata project with aerial drone images of the site.
In addition, the GIAMAA project team visited the region of Assinie where the Ehotilé Islands and Assouindé protected sites are located. Here, the team identified a possible transboundary Marine Protected Area (MPA) between Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. The visit helped understanding the difficult cohabitation between artisanal fishermen and the tourism industry in regards to the development and management of the marine and coastal zone.
In Benin, the Mami Wata team visited the shoreline with the GIZMAC project team (Integrated Marine and Coastal Zone Management), led by national coordinator Faustine Sinzogan. The teams stopped at Togbé to visit the biosphere reserve that extends to Togo, and identified to host an MPA. The field trip then extended to the mouth of the Bouche du Roy, not far from Grand Popo, where a transboundary MPA between Benin and Togo could be designed and implemented.
In Togbé, Dr. Zacharie Sohou, director of the Oceanographic Research Center of Benin and Mr. Richard Dacosta, Program Officer at the Abidjan Convention, exchanged with local operators and with the Beninese government delegate in the department. The latter raised the problem encountered by the authorities in convincing women salt producers to adopt more environmental friendly production techniques. However, if these women had previously been trained to produce solar salt on canvas, the experiment did not prove conclusive and the women went back to a production using mangrove wood.
Mr. Dacosta also discussed the production of solar salt on tarpaulin with the Beninese state representative. Indeed, in other countries (Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Guinea Conakry, Sierra Leone) this type of production is more profitable than that with wood (between 18 and 20 kg per tarpaulin against 8 to 9 kg). Dr Abdoulaye Diagana, in charge of communications and partnerships at the Abidjan Convention, suggested exploring a South-South cooperation track to encourage behavior change among Beninese salt producing women, drawing on experience from African counterparts.
Supported by the German Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, and implemented by the Abidjan Convention and GRID-Arendal, the Mami Wata project works to promote anthropogenic activities in an integrated and holistic way, ensuring balance between conservation of the coastal and marine environment and uses.
Dr Abdoulaye DIAGANA