Local community perspectives are crucial to the State of the Marine Environment (SoME) assessment process in Cote d’Ivoire
Community representatives bring their local perspectives on the environment to the fore during SoME reporting consultation workshops.
On September 28 & 29 2020, as part of the Integrated Management of the Marine and Coastal Area from Abidjan to Assinie (GIAMAA) project, Côte d’Ivoire validated its report on the State of the Marine Environment (SoME) in the country, following two meetings, held in Assinie and San Pedro respectively. These two consultative workshops constituted an opportunity for local coastal communities to express their voices through selected representatives.
In Assinie, Mr. Justin Soppy Tchapka, village chief of Grand-Jacques, attended the meeting in order to bring to the fore some of the main issues he observed in the coastal area – issues he markedly described as “existential problems”. Indeed, in the area, the explosives used to develop maritime oil extraction infrastructures (e.g. offshore platforms) have affected the marine ecosystem, and hence directly impact the artisanal fisheries sector. Furthermore, oil residues invade the shoreline, and ecologically and aesthetically impact the area, thus affecting the coastal community’s resources and well-being.
Sand exploitation was another issue mentioned by Mr. Tchapka, as indeed it accelerates coastal erosion. As the sea gains ground over the land, it takes the remaining palm trees on the coast, which help prevent coastal erosion. Sand extraction hence increases the positive feedback loop of coastal erosion in the area. Coastal erosion is a vital issue for the villagers of Grand-Jacques, as the village is located on a portion of land between the ocean in the South, and the Ébrié lagoon in the North. As the chief fears, “if nothing is done, human lives will be lost here one day”. Mr. Tchapka hence called for a project to take action and replant palm trees along the coast, in order to slow down the progression of the ocean over land. Migration for villagers of Grand-Jacques is indeed not an option, said Mr. Tchapka, before emphasizing, “the preservation of the environment means everything to us, because if the environment is destroyed, we no longer exist”.
In San Pedro, Mr. Raphaël N’Drin Bogui, Leader of the village Chiefs of the Fresco department, started by clarifying, “There is no reason for this workshop about the coastline, to be held without me”. Just like Mr. Tchapka during the meeting in Assinie, Mr. N’Drin Bogui underlined the issue of sea level rise. “Sea level rise is a danger for us, especially for the population living on the coastal strip”. Indeed, in 1963, already due to its exposure to sea level rise, the Fresco village was displaced from the beach to the mainland behind the Gbôkle lagoon. The village now overlooks the lagoon.
With regards to food security, Mr. Marcel Otté Kouadio, Chief of Gaoulou, a village located 14km from the ocean but along the Sassandra river, stressed, “In the sea there is almost everything that feeds men”. Furthermore, in the river his village depends on, Mr. Otté Kouadio said he observed a decrease in fish, both in terms of quantity and species diversity. He linked this directly to the deforestation of mangroves, which besides preventing from erosion, constitute an important nursery area for fish. Reflecting the strong ties of its community to these trees and the ecosystem services they provide, he asked “These trees give us life, why are we going to destroy them?”, and called for restoration activities to be undertaken nearby his village.
Images: Alison Amoussou (Abidjan Convention Secretartiat)