A first Locally Empowered Area Protection (LEAP) project was launched on Thursday with the aim of protecting fisheries, managing ecotourism, and conserving marine biodiversity in Seychelles.
LEAP is part of a regional project being implemented by Nature Seychelles, which seeks to set up the first co-managed marine area in Seychelles in the Baie Ternay and Port Launay Marine National Parks in the west of Mahe, the main island.
The intention is that this coastal marine area will be co-managed by local communities and user groups working with the Seychelles National Parks Authority (SNPA). Co-management of protected areas is a formal policy of the Seychelles’ government with the upcoming new legislation on national parks and reserves codifying it. This will be the first attempt to establish this policy.
Partners involved with the project see the involvement of local communities in the management of protected areas as the next step towards ensuring ecosystem resilience in adapting to the effects of climate change.
At the short ceremony, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the Seychelles National Parks Authority (SNPA) – the designated authority for the marine national parks – and Nature Seychelles – the project implementer.
An MOU was signed by CEOs of the SNPA and Nature Seychelles on Thursday. (Seychelles Nation) Photo License: CC-BY
The chief executive of SNPA, Selby Remy, told media that “as an authority we won’t be able to do everything. We need the assistance of other organisations as well as the public to manage these areas.”
“This is a very interesting project, the first that looks at bringing together the community and population to help with the management of protected areas. At SNPA we always try to include people but at times it doesn’t really work out, so this is a more formal system where there will be a proper setup that will give people the chance to give their opinion and participate and contribute actively to these two areas,” said Remy.
A site level management committee consisting of local fishermen, tourism establishments, entrepreneurs and vendors, government officials, youth and district leadership has been created for the project.
Cedric Thomas, a member of the committee, told SNA that he and his team welcome the project.
“Firstly, this is a project that deals with environment protection so we are helping to protect the environment. Secondly, it will provide the community with a livelihood as there are different people who come to this beach to do different types of businesses. We encourage this. We would like the project to an active one that will attract more locals so that they can sell locally made products,” said Thomas.
The four-year LEAP project is funded by the German International Climate Initiative (IKI) with the technical support of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It will engage at multiple levels to establish the co-managed marine area. A total of 680,000 euros is available to Nature Seychelles for three years.
The chief executive of Nature Seychelles, Nirmal Shah, said that “10 years ago it wouldn’t have been possible to do such a project. Today I see that the community, tourism partners and NGOs are interested in working together for the environment.”
“It is also the time for us to bring democracy within the conservation of the environment. this is not only a domain for experts and the government but it needs to be something for all Seychellois. They will be able to give their opinions,” he added.