Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands
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Combating desertification in coastal Africa: a campaign to alert the local population

Parts of coastal Africa south of the Sahara are experiencing serious desertification problems as a result of mismanagement of natural resources such as mangrove forests. The socio-economic and environmental importance of mangroves is undisputed, and is the object of many studies. The matter is discussed in a recent UNESCO publication entitled "Mangrove Ecosystem Studies in Latin America and Africa" (a limited number of copies are available from the UNESCO Dakar Office).

Mangroves are vital to the everyday life of the population of coastal Africa: to build their houses and as a source of charcoal. Unlimited exploitation of mangrove forests leads to desertification in the coastal zone and inevitable salinization of the land, rendering it useless for agricultural. Another negative aspect is the destruction of habitat. Mangrove forests are nursery grounds for many species and their destruction results in a decrease in biodiversity. Poverty is one of the direct results of indiscriminate exploitation of coastal resources such as juvenile shrimps, fish and oysters. In Toubacouta (Sine Saloum region, southern Senegal), mangrove forests have been almost completely destroyed by the local people with natural desertification processes playing a secondary role. Oyster-farming and artisan fishing has been affected in many villages. Natural processes, like the rupture of the Sangomar spit have added to man-induced damage.

Stockpiles of mangrove wood Salinated land no longer usable for agriculture

An example of UNESCO (Coastal Regions and Small Islands unit, CSI and Man and the Biosphere, MAB) actions to combat man-provoked desertification and related poverty is a public awareness campaign, disseminating knowledge and information to the local population emphasising the rational use of their mangrove forests, this vital natural resource. The West African Association for Marine Resources (WAAME), a Dakar-based non-governmental organization, in April 1997, organized on UNESCO’s behalf, a grass-roots survey in 10 coastal villages of Sine Saloum. They looked at the environmental and socio-economic situation and followed up with meetings with the local inhabitants. These meetings attracted representatives of associations of village women, young people, fishermen, local leaders and authorities and local administration. The key issue at these meetings was sustainable management of coastal fauna and flora. They resulted in the establishment of an inter-village planning committee, its target being to assist with the protection and management of mangrove ecosystems. The committee organized a "public awareness day" in June 1997, in Foundougne, which attracted villagers from Sine Saloum. The purpose of this and other meetings held by WAAME in this region was to establish, with the use of relevant audio-visual materials, a dialogue between the local population and external funding sources regarding (i) socio-economic activities contributing to desertification and (ii) ways of combating the degradation of coastal ecosystems and loss of biodiversity which eventually lead to poverty. The following themes were discussed: reafforestation of mangroves; causes of mortality; adaptive techniques for oyster-farming; immediate actions needed for sustainable use of coastal ecosystems. Among the immediate actions needed are: a major awareness campaign for the local population, training in reafforestation of mangroves and creation of "green belts" around villages in place of destroyed mangroves.

Reafforestation with mangroves

For more information contact:

Mr. A. Diame
West African Association for Marine Environment (WAAME)
BP 26352
Dakar, Senegal
Tel.: + (221) 82 44 413
Fax.: + (221) 62 44 413 (c/o CONGAD)
E-mail: congad@sonatel.senet.net
UNESCO Dakar Office
12 Avenue Roume
B. P. 3311
Dakar, Senegal
Tel.: (221) 23 84 41
Fax.: (221) 23 83 93
1 rue Miollis
75732 Paris, Cedex15, France
Fax.: (33 1) 45 68 58 08
E-mail: csi@unesco.org
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