Let's inject democracy in conservation and see what happens
A growing body of evidence from the region and around the world has shown that putting local people at the heart of coastal and marine conservation better protects nature and secures livelihoods. One of the ways of doing this is through the creation of Locally Managed Marine Areas (LMMA).
Putting local people at the heart of conservation better protects nature and secures livelihoods
An LMMA is a coastal marine area that is managed by local communities and user groups or co-managed with local government and partner organizations to help protect fisheries and marine biodiversity. Present in our region and around the world such as in the Pacific, they may be different in approach, context, and size but all share the common theme of placing local communities in the driving seat of conservation. They use a combination of traditional or local stewardship practices blended with modern conservation methods and are driven by the participation of members of the community in all aspects from planning to implementation.
In Madagascar for example, where considerable progress has been made with LMMAs, they have been used to improve fisheries sustainability and climate change resilience, while communities in Fiji have implemented LMMAs to bolster local incomes and food security.
Although present elsewhere, LMMAs are new to Seychelles.
Now, through a regional project funded by the German government (The German International Climate Initiative (IKI) through the German Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB)) and supported by IUCN, Nature Seychelles plans to set up the first-ever LMMA in Seychelles.
Nature Seychelles has been holding consultations on the potential for an LMMA
Through this project locally known as the LEAP project, the NGO has been holding consultations with government, civil society, businesses, and local people on the potential for an LMMA on the island of Mahe.
Towards this end, the NGO recently brought together a group of local people in the Port Glaud area to discuss the possibility of the area for an LMMA, and to talk about the opportunities and challenges of the area. They included local fishermen, tourism establishments, entrepreneurs and vendors, government officials, youth, and district leadership. They visited the Port Launay and Cap Ternay Marine Parks to look at these sites in terms of community involvement and livelihood options such as tourism. They were accompanied by the project's National Working Group including representatives of the Seychelles National Parks Authority.
The enthusiastic group discussed the various potential activities as well as those outlined under the LEAP project. They were excited at the prospect of undertaking management activities in partnership with Nature Seychelles, and the Seychelles National Parks Authority, which is the legal custodian of these Marine Parks.
Challenges include extensive littering and noise in the recreation area
Challenges facing the sites were also highlighted. They include extensive littering and noise in the recreation area. This is something the project participants would like to address in the future in trying to come up with solutions.
“This is as much an experiment in local democracy and governance as it is about the environment. If we empower people to protect the environment which in turn becomes important to them in terms of livelihoods, leisure and pride will it lead to better conservation? Yes, we think it can. This will be a very exciting experience,” said Dr. Nirmal Shah, the Chief Executive of Nature Seychelles.