Protecting biodiversity in Benin with the Abidjan Convention through the UE Funded ACP MEA Programme. By Dr Yacoub Issola and Dr Abdoulaye Diagana
The Abidjan Convention through the ACP MEAs III programme organized from January 23rd to 27th a field mission in Benin, one of the project implementing countries.
The purpose of the mission was to identify the needs for the elaboration of a management plan for a selected MPA, discuss challenges and possible solutions.
The mission started with meetings with key stakeholders in the management of coastal and marine zones in Benin, namely Environmental and Climate General Directorate (DGEC), National Wildlife and Reserves Management Centre (CENAGREF) and Integrated Project Management Unit (UIGP) of the WACA ResiP Project. The Abidjan Convention had given support to Benin through the Mamy Wata Project that leads to Donaten and Togbin Daho-Bouche du Roy being identified as Ecological and Biological Significant Areas (EBSA) and later officially established as MPAs in January 2022.
The grant received by Benin through the ACP MEAs III Programme will sustain the activities implemented by the Abidjan Convention to halt biodiversity loss. The MPAs created need to be operationalize, through strengthening governance bodies and management tools for which the support of the Abidjan Convention has been requested.
During the field visits, Donaten and Togbin Daho-Bouche du Roy MPAs, associations for turtles protection and conservation were considered for first hand assessment of their needs.
In the village of Avlo (in Grand Popo) located in the Community Biodiversity Conservation Area, itself inside the Togbin Daho-Bouche du Roy MPA, the project team visited the embouchure of Mono river and the village of Honhlihoué on an island near Avlo subject to coastal erosion.
In Honhlihoué, the mission met salt producing women association and noted that mangroves wood were used as firewood for salt production.
Ms Faustine Sinzogan, Benin’s Focal Point to the Abidjan Convention narrated ‘’The MPA is home to many villages, including four islands, where the main activity is salt production. In recent years, an advanced degradation of the mangrove has been noticed due to anthropic and natural pressures. The populations cut mangroves in an anarchic way to produce salt despite repeated awareness raising and reforestation campaigns.’’
While salt production itself is good and serves as livelihood activity for women, the threat is coming from the source of energy.
Given the alarming nature of the threats to the biodiversity, Abdoulaye Diagana, the ACP MEA III coordinator at the Abidjan Convention proposed to facilitate a best practice exchange with salt producing organizations whether in Senegal, Bissau-Guinea or Gambia using sun energy.
Moreover, in Togbin Daho-Bouche du Roy MPA, the mission visited fishermen and marine turtle eco-guards of Nature Tropicale NGO and AMSHART NGO. During exchanges, fishermen and eco-guards explain how they work together. When fishermen’s net capture turtles, they call upon eco-guards who set them free, ensuring the unheart turtle is sent back to the ocean. Also, eco-guards keep watch on the beach to protect laying turtles and their eggs from predactors. After the hatching, they make sure newborn turtles get to the ocean safely.
In Donaten, a village on Donaten MPA, the mission visited Gbenon Kpo Association (Nature Tropicale) working on turtles conservation and beach cleaning. The mission was lucky to assist the freeing of a turtle and newborn turtles into the ocean.
On the two MPAs, eco-guards listed challenges in accomplishing their volotary job as lack of materials comprising shelter, tricycle, torch, motor pomp, clothing (waterproof), rake, basket for waste collection, means of communication, etc. The on-the-spot assessment allowed to understand the level of needed supports and the need for the Abidjan Convention to mobilize more resources to sustain the biodiversity conservation along the marine and coastal zones of Benin.