The 4-day “Regional Forum on Solutions for Oceans, Coasts and Human Wellbeing in Africa“, held from 31 May to 3 June on Zanzibar, gathered more than 100 participants from 24 African countries to share successful examples of sustainable management and conservation of marine and coastal ecosystems. The forum, held both in English and in French, was organized by the Blue Solutions Initiative and co-hosted by the Abidjan Convention, the Nairobi Convention, the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA) and the Sustainable Ocean Initiative (SOI) of the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
It was little about problems and much about solutions at the Blue Solutions Regional Forum. In a large and open conference room with breathtaking view on the Indian Ocean, delegates from African governments, the civil society, the business sector and academia spent three days sharing and learning about a wealth of inspiring activities happening in the marine and costal realm all over the African continent.
Posters were presented for 28 “blue solutions” – successful approaches or processes implemented to achieve healthy and productive marine and coastal ecosystems from 12 countries. Solutions were highly diverse, covering for instance private MPA management through ecotourism in Zanzibar, tools for sea turtle conservation in Ivory Coast, community-based mangrove carbon offset in Kenya, and mangrove restoration in Ghana and in Cameroun. As a solution provider mentioned, these cases demonstrated that there is “no need to reinvent the wheel if it already has been invented”.
The Forum offered a very good mix between inputs and practical work. In a spirit of knowledge-sharing, all participants brainstormed on six real and two fictitious cases in small teams. New solutions were drafted for these cases, building on from the solutions and building blocks (key elements for replication) that had been presented earlier. Expressions of interest were formulated to implement one of these draft solutions, namely to address monofilament net fishing in Guinea’s artisanal fisheries.
Actionable recommendations were phrased in order to accelerate action towards the sustainable management and conservation of marine and coastal biodiversity in Africa and beyond. Examples included clustering solutions to facilitate the matching between solution providers and potential solution seekers, identifying blue solutions ambassadors, and encouraging funders to support in priority the upscaling and replication of proven solutions.
The forum offered a unique platform to network with fellow participants around specific needs and offers, thus facilitating the establishment of new partnerships to strengthen interregional collaboration. Focused networking was made possible by the display of nominative and self-made “needs and offerings” ID-cards on a board. Some delegates wrote down, for example, their need for capacity building in using scientific data to inform management decisions, in engaging the oil and industries in conservation projects, in implementing national fisheries closure in subsistence fisheries, or in mangrove restoration, while others offered their expertise in the monitoring of marine protected areas, in the development of ecotourism projects or in wetlands management. This networking map also facilitated the creation of a new “African Marine Science Researchers Network”, a multidisciplinary team of marine science teachers and researchers from African universities and research institutes.
Between sessions, participants could be seen browsing through posters showcasing blue solutions and their building blocks; seeking information from team members of the Blue Solutions Initiative about trainings offered; or even writing new solutions implemented by their organization, using a template made available by the Blue Solutions team for that purpose.
On the final day, everyone had the opportunity to experience in real life some of the presented solutions, by taking a field trip either to the Chumbe Island Coral Park, to a community integrated sponge and coral farm called marinecultures.org, to a seaweed farm in Paje employing only local women, or to the colobus monkey sanctuary in the Jozani forest.
All in all, the forum stood out for its high-quality interventions, inspiring discussions, interactive exercises and opportunities for networking. A wealth of innovative ideas to facilitate the sharing and the making of blue solutions at all scales was put forward by participants. Generally, participants appreciated “the strong participatory and interdisciplinary approach”, reported they have “[…] gained new insights and broaden [their] network”, and noted that “a solution-ing approach is appropriate in many contexts.”
Immediate next steps for the Blue Solutions Team following the Forum include preparing a publication showcasing all presented solutions, convening Blue Solutions sessions at international events such as the IUCN World Conservation Congress or the CBD Conference of Parties, as well as, on a longer term, convening trainings to answer the requests from some of the participants to the Forum.
In case you are interested in learning more about the solutions presented at the Blue Solutions Regional Forum or other inspiring blue cases worldwide, have a look at our Online Exchange Platform, where all solutions are published.
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Authors: Janina Korting, Pishum Migraine