Two new projects beginning under MedWet

09/09/2003

The MedWet Coordination Unit announces the start of two new projects in the Mediterranean region, very different in scale of funding, but both potentially very significant for the future work and implementation of the Ramsar Convention:

1. Agriculture, Water and Wetlands

The first project is related to the theme of the Technical Workshop of the recent MedWet/Com5: "Wetlands, Agriculture and Water Use Interactions". It is funded by Inwent-Capacity Building International, a German organization, that got in touch with MedWet through the GWP-Med (Global Water Partnership-Mediterranean) Secretariat regarding the global Dialogue on Water, Food and Environment. Inwent will provide to MedWet the sum of 100,000 EUR for a rapid project (to be concluded by the end of the year) focusing on two objectives:

To initiate and launch a local dialogue leading to tangible solutions for reducing the conflicts of interest at the field level between water uses and other economic uses of wetlands (especially as related to agriculture practices) and environmental protection;

To use and validate in the frame of a Regional Workshop (to be held in Cairo or at the site), with the participation of some key participants from the South and East Mediterranean, the results of the local dialogue as obtained through a socioeconomic participative study and streaming from the local level dynamics. The aim is to produce tangible solutions and a set of key activities that can be developed into a comprehensive project to be implemented at a national and regional level.

The project will be implemented at a local level drawing on the experience and expertise built by the MedWet/Coast project (the site of Zaranik, one of the three test sites of Medwet/Coast in Egypt, will most probably be selected for the local dialogue). MedWet/Coast and the MedWet centres will be invited to participate in the project and to provide their expertise. Also, partners to the project will be the Centre for Environment & Development for the Arab Region & Europe (CEDARE-based in Egypt), the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA - MedWet National Focal Point), the GWP-Med Secretariat, and the North African Wetlands Network of MedWet.

At a regional level, the national authorities of the South and East Mediterranean MedWet countries will be consulted as to ensure the best possible participation and outcome at the Regional Workshop. The International Water Management Institute (IWMI), a key partner to MedWet on the theme of Agriculture, Water and Wetlands, will also play a central role in shaping future steps towards a regional approach.

2. North African Wetlands Network (NAWN)

Last week MedWet received formal notification by the Head of the LIFE Unit of the European Commission (DG Environment), that the proposal submitted under the title "Zones Humides MAGHREB - Renforcement des capacités de gestion des Zones Humides en Afrique du Nord / MAGHREB wetlands - Reinforcing capacities for the management of wetlands in North Africa" has been approved.

The project focuses on the three countries participating in the NAWN, Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia. It has a total budget of just over 1,280,000 EUR (of which approximately 65% EU Commission support and 25% own funding by the project countries), and a duration of 3 years.

The general objective of the project is assist and consolidate the implementation of policies for the management of wetlands in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. The specific objectives are to:

a. Reinforce the participating countries' capacity at a national level, in order for them to be able to implement policies for the conservation and wise use of their wetlands, while taking into consideration the ecological functions of the site and promoting a transregional cooperation about the use of specific tools and methodologies.

b. Reinforce the capacity at the local level by strengthening the potential socio-economic assets of the sites and improve the economy of the local communities while taking into consideration the wise use of the natural resources

The MedWet Coordination Unit, acting as project coordinator, will assist each country's administration responsible for wetlands protection as well as the NAWN Focal Units to coordinate the diverse users and stakeholders of each site in implementing the project's activities:

- Reinforce the operational means of the administrative authorities and support them in organising the Focal Units, which will undertake the coordination of the national capacities in the wetlands field;
- Train the technical personnel and managers who will undertake the site management, in the field of indicators monitoring and wetlands site management while using the existing expertise of the MedWet Centres;
- Update the management plans for the Ramsar site of Merja Zerga (Morocco) and Sebkhat El Kelbia (Tunisia) and develop a management plan for the Ramsar site of Reghaia (Algeria);
- Organise and implement a scientific monitoring programme of the principal ecological parameters for the three sites;
- Establish and equip Environmental Education Centres on all three sites;
- Develop and reinforce the eco-tourism capacity of Merja Zerga, Sebkhat El Kelbia and Reghaia;
- Organise exchange programmes for the managers of wetland sites in different countries, through national meetings, as well as exhibitions and publications on regional level;
- Improve the activities and structural aspects of the fisheries sector in Merja Zerga;
- Organise and improve the women's manufacturing sector in Merja Zerga and Sebkhat El Kelbia;
- Provide facilities and equipment to the wetlands focal unit in each country with the necessary telecommunications and computer material;
- Disseminate regularly the on-going activities, key results and methodology adopted by the project, through the MedWet newsletter and website as well as through the national media.

The project will be implemented in collaboration with the MedWet Team (MedWet Centres) in order to put to use their expert knowledge, as well as MedWet/Coast for bringing increased interaction between this project and the other networks of MedWet. It will also constitute a good medium-term basis for the operation and maturing of the North African Wetlands Network (NAWN) of MedWet, and hopefully lead to its further extension to other Mediterranean countries in the N. African region.

-- reported by the MedWet Coordinator, Spyros Kouvelis

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