Bringing local democracy to environmental management
The Minister for Agriculture, Climate Change and Environment, Flavien Joubert, yesterday presided over the community launch and the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the first co-managed marine area in Seychelles.
The ‘Locally Empowered Area Protection’ (LEAP) project is part of a regional project being implemented by Nature Seychelles, which seeks to set up the first co-managed marine area in Seychelles, notably in the Port Launay and Baie Ternay national parks.
The aim is to get the involvement of the local communities in the management of protected marine areas while they get to make sustainable effective usage of their natural resources for economic benefits.
Their involvement in co-managing the protected marine areas will be alongside Nature Seychelles – the project implementer; and the Seychelles National Parks Authority (SNPA) – the designated authority for the marine national parks and government.
The launch of LEAP by Minister Joubert was held in a small ceremony at Port Launay. This was concretised after by the signing of a MoU between Selby Remie, the chief executive of SNPA and Dr Nirmal Shah, the chief executive of Nature Seychelles.
Present were the principal secretary for Environment, Alain de Comarmond; the principal secretary for Blue Economy, Kenneth Racombo; the Port Glaud district administrator, Leonne Florentine; the general manager of Constance Ephelia, Stephen Duchene; some children and teachers from the Port Glaud primary school eco-club; local committees participating in the project and other partners, among other guests.
Co-management is an innovative approach supported by national plans and policies, such as the ‘Protected Areas Policy’ that was set out in the draft National Parks and Reserves Bill in 2013. The LEAP project was the initiative of Nature Seychelles to reactivate the policy that had been more or less dormant since then.
“I am gratified therefore that the locally empowered area protection (LEAP) project being implemented by Nature Seychelles has chosen these two protected areas which actually need support, outreach and local ownership.
“The MoU between Nature Seychelles and SNPA is a great step to establishing formal relations in terms of project management. I hope we will soon move to a joint management committee between the community, which includes the district administration and local leaders, and the SNPA, which will mean that co-management truly starts to become a reality,” Minister Joubert said, noting that he will continue to support the process throughout and to leave the door open to engage the public in and on environmental issues.
He noted that the idea of public engagement and ownership is not just part of his personal belief but it is enshrined in our Constitution and in our protected areas policy.
He called for diligent work despite the challenges the project may present, such that at the end, tangible results will come out for the benefit of the environment which will also translate into a change in relationship between conservation and human existence.
Dr Shah said the project, which had taken one year to be implemented since it was launched by Nature Seychelles, is unique in a sense as it combines local community, government and NGOs.
“I want everybody to be part of this project as it is all about partnership and democracy. We want to bring local democracy to environmental management. We want to get the views and opinions from the Port Glaud community, on how to manage and value the two marine parks,” Mr Shah said.
He claimed that following a small assessment in the community, it has been found that they want to create businesses for economic purposes with regard to the two parks just like what the Praslin community is benefiting from in the protected reserves of Cousin, Arid and Curieuse.
Dr Shah said that LEAP is being funded by Nature Seychelles through part of a grant (€680,000) obtained from the German International Climate Initiative (IKI) through the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), based in Gland, Switzerland, for enhancing coastal and marine socio-ecological resilience and biodiversity conservation in the Western Indian Ocean region.
He further said that part of the grant caters for training of local persons to set up businesses with regard to the two national marine parks, including setting up a small educational centre, sign boards, a full-time conservation officer and two full-time rangers on site and to bring in international expertise.
He launched an appeal to those wishing to do or create economic activities with regard to the two marine parks to apply for training with Nature Seychelles.
Dr Shah explained that the two national marine parks have been chosen for the project because they are spectacular sites.
He said that as they are valued economically but without the community benefiting from them, Nature Seychelles wants to expose their economic benefits to the Port Glaud community.
“If we show the community the economic benefits they can reap from the two marine parks, they will be motivated to protect them as they will be their source of livelihood,” Dr Shah said.
Mr Remie on his part said that the project will help SNPA with added manpower and assistance to protect and manage the two marine parks.
Cedrick Thomas, a member of the LEAP committee and resident of Port Glaud, said that the project will have a positive impact in the community in terms of added economic activities that will encourage people with social problems or without a job to venture into something that will bring them some monetary benefits.
The launch of LEAP and the signing of the MoU ended with a presentation of tokens of appreciation and a tour of the Constance Ephelia Hotel’s mangroves.