SeaSketch trainings organized to support collaborative Marine Spatial Planning in Ghana
Two trainings have been conducted with the aim to strengthen capacities in decision-support tools for Marine Spatial Planning with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Land Use and Spatial Planning Authority of Ghana.
Ghana is one of the three Mami Wata Pilot Project countries. With the aim to enable the implementation of Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) activities in the country, two trainings on SeaSketch have been organized over 1.5 hours with more than 20 professionals of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Land Use and Spatial Planning Authority (LUSPA).
SeaSketch is a powerful tool, which allows the open use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) – that were once limited to professionals – by ocean planners and a wide range of actors involved in the marine and coastal zone. In this way, SeaSketch enables participation in MSP processes, such as zoning activities taking place in a marine area (e.g. fisheries, tourism, maritime transport, etc.), or planning uses within marine protected areas.
The platform is web-based and can be accessed from home, during physical and virtual meetings – the tool has in this regard proven particularly useful at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, but also in the field where necessary – provided the user has access to a stable internet connection.
Projects that are being implemented with SeaSketch share a similar workflow. First, the existing geodata of the area is uploaded in the tool. From there, users can start filling data gaps by way of surveys aimed at collecting information on missing or non-spatialised maritime activities and uses. Based on all the gathered information, users can propose and sketch prospective zones. The sketched zones can then be shared and discussed in forums, in order to interactively contribute to the decisions taken in marine spatial plans.
SeaSketch, however, is a platform that should be used along with other tools. Although it constitutes a simple and intuitive tool, it does not generate optimal solutions by itself. Models generated in Marxan – or other similar software, as well as cumulative impact models, can be integrated into SeaSketch, in order to move towards a more optimal decision-making. Users can hence generate their own spatial plans and see how these compare to computer-modelled plans and, if they wish, choose the options that better matches the perspectives of multiple actors involved in the marine space.
As part of the Mami Wata project, SeaSketch trainings have focused on the use of the platform along with Geonode, a web-based application for developing geospatial information systems (GIS) and for deploying spatial data infrastructures (SDI). Geonode is a platform where spatial data can be easily published and stored, while SeaSketch is a great tool for stakeholder participation in decision-making, since it facilitates their contribution by means of simple sketching, discussions in fora, etc.
During the trainings for Ghana, the participants from EPA and LUSPA have been introduced to these two tools, and have been presented the possibilities these offer for supporting the MSP pilot in Ghana. The SeaSketch projects of the Azores (Portugal) and Reunion (France) in the Indian Ocean served as examples during the training. The participants learned how to publish spatial data in Geonode and how to integrate the published data in SeaSketch, as well as some basic functions needed to administer both tools. Future trainings will support the hands-on administration and use of these platforms in their path to support Ghana’s MSP activities.