Written by Carolin Hoffmann, Blue Solutions Initiative
What do Equatorial Guinea and Bakul have in common? – Both are tropical coastal states that are blessed with an abundance of marine and coastal biodiversity, a diverse range of ecosystems and natural resources. In both countries, several sectors and stakeholders use the marine and coastal space and depend on the resources it provides, which raises questions on how the sustainable use of these resources can be guaranteed in the future.
Whereas this is the reality of Equatorial Guinea, Bakul is the fictitious venue and place of learning in the Marine Spatial Planning training course of Blue Solutions. From August 20-24, Bakul received a group of visitors from Equatorial Guinea that took part in the “Blue Planning in Practice” course. Here is what happened:
14 high-level representatives and technical experts that represent the Equatorial Guinean Parliament, the Ministry of Fisheries and Hydrological Resources, the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Forest and Environment; and the Ministry of Mining and Hydrocarbons as well as the non-governmental sector (academia and NGOs). In addition, three instructors from the Wildlife Conservation Society, MarViva and Blue Solutions. The training course was implemented through a cooperation between the Blue Solutions initiative, the Mami Wata project, the MarViva foundation and the Wildlife Conservation Society.
August 20-24, 2018
The city Kogo in Equatorial Guinea
The Equatorial Guinean delegation traveled to Bakul to experience the different stages of a marine spatial planning process, including practical exercises related to tools, concepts and the simulation of negotiations. The group looked at elements such as the identification of need & process design, establishing authority & organizing the process, the organization of stakeholder participation and drafting and approving the spatial management plan. The instructors briefly introduced each element theoretically. Afterwards, the participants came together in sub-groups and did practical casework on the case of Bakul, followed by presentations, role-plays as well as reflection sessions in plenary. In addition, real cases and successful examples of Marine Spatial Planning processes in Congo, Costa Rica and Gabon were presented to the group.
Clearly, the half-day excursion by boat to the dense mangrove forest of the estuary of the river Muni was one of the highlights of the week. The group was impressed with the height of the mangroves and the teeming aquatic wildlife close to the dense mangrove forests… something that some people of the group had never witnessed before.
In addition, the group very much appreciated the interactive and participatory methodology of the training course and the simplicity of the course to convey complex topics and concepts, for instance through the “ecosystem services game” and the “red/ blue” negotiation game. People also highlighted the rare opportunity to get in touch with representatives of a diverse range of sectors – which is crucial for embarking on the journey to establish a marine spatial plan in real life and outside of Bakul.