Nature Seychelles made a splash on the global stage with our Chief Executive Dr. Nirmal Shah sharing his experiences with the Geneva-based nature-based solutions dialogues on 7 June 2021. The dialogues, convened by the Geneva Environment Network and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), allow experts from around the world to discuss nature-based solutions, and to share and acquire knowledge to help design and implement innovative solutions that tackle and solve the current challenges we are facing.
Dr. Shah joined a panel of eminent persons drawn from various leading organisations including the UN Environment Programme, IUCN, UNDP, FAO and the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment for the event, which was part of the celebrations for World Environment Day and the launch of the UN Decade on Restoration.
He presented two real-life projects from Seychelles that showcase what our small country has done in terms of solutions to meet the challenges of climate change.
The first was our flagship project, the Reef Rescuers project, which has been running close to 11 years now. Dr. Shah said that the project was a natural evolution from the successful work carried out in island restoration for the purpose of saving critically endangered birds that saw to the downlisting of these birds on the IUCN Red List.
The project's aim was to use large-scale coral reef restoration to enhance natural recovery and ecosystem services after coral reefs in Seychelles experienced massive bleaching in 1998. Based on Cousin Island Special Reserve, it sought to jumpstart novel ecosystems to provide services important to the country such as fisheries and tourism. In total, the project leveraged USD 1.3 million in funds from the US Agency for International Development, Global Environment Facility and others. It farmed 50,000 corals of 34 species that were planted on 5400 square metres of the degraded reef. The project discovered super corals able to withstand heat, which were propagated and planted. 62 practitioners from 22 countries were trained in restoration and the project also partnered locally with resorts, dive centres and the Pearl farm. A restoration toolkit was published online and scientific papers published. The project has been featured widely in local media as well as internationally on CNN, BBC, SKY, DW and Reuters among others. A centre for learning called CORAL was also established and is now the hub for the new phase of the initiative, which is a regional project with Mauritius. This new project, funded by the Adaptation Fund through UNDP and the Government of Seychelles, seeks to use new scientific techniques to produce over 5000 heat resilient coral colonies per year through the setting up of land-based coral aquaculture and the continuation of underwater nurseries. It will train local people and support coastal protection projects including creating man-made and hybrid structures planted with corals.
The other initiative highlighted was the Locally Empowered Area Protection project, a regional project funded by the German Climate Initiative (IKI) and coordinated by IUCN. Through this project a memorandum of understanding has been signed, allowing for the first time in Seychelles, for local communities to participate in the management of the Baie Ternay and Port Launay marine national parks through conservation and restoration activities, awareness, livelihoods and resilience improvement, as well as policy change. Nature Seychelles is partnering with the Seychelles National Parks Authority and the local community including businesses and hotels in Port Glaud district for the project.