The development of a National Strategy for Wetlands Management (NSWM) by the government of Benin
Benin's adhesion to the Ramsar Convention on the 24th of January 2004 concretized her interest in sustainable development through the wise use and management of natural resources and the establishment of a balance between populations' needs and environmental stability. The Benin government, through the Benin Environmental Agency of the Ministry of Environment, Habitat and Town Planning, has updated her National Strategy for Wetlands Management (NSWM) in Benin, aimed at the wise use of wetlands towards the reduction of poverty. This move by the Republic of Benin is in accordance with Article 3.1 of the Ramsar Convention text and Resolution VII.6 of the 7th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties (1999). It also takes into account the country's commitment to designating Wetlands of International Importance and to identifying/characterizing, managing and monitoring designated wetlands as well as other wetlands within the country.
The resulting document stipulates that about 75 % of the Benin population live in or depend on wetlands. Three categories of wetlands were identified (wetlands of the South, Center and North), ranging from inland to coastal types, and four principal wetland functions of production, space and ecological regulation and culture were marked out. Considering the fact that natural resources and biodiversity are the major raw materials for socio-economic and cultural development and thus play a major role in poverty reduction, the latter has been duly incorporated into this NSWM.
The vision of Benin's NSWM is: to ensure that by the year 2025, wetlands are habitable environments, endowed with natural resources necessary to fight against poverty at national level and contributing towards biodiversity conservation at the global level.
Four strategic approaches were adopted towards achieving this vision:
The operationalisation of these four approaches would be achieved through the following eight strategic activity areas:
An action plan has been developed for each of these eight strategic activity areas, stating the objectives of each action area, the activities to be carried out, expected results and the main actors to be involved.
It would be necessary to note that the existing National Policy on Environmental Management in Benin encourages decentralization and thus reinforces the role and responsibility of local communities towards management specifically of wetlands, thus facilitating the implementation of this NSWM.
The Ramsar Convention Secretariat would like to congratulate the government of Benin for this achievement and urge all the Parties that have not yet done so to initiate the preparation of their NWPs as soon as they can.
We would also like to emphasise the fact that it is important that while drafting the NWP, the Parties expressly consider linking that process to the national poverty reduction programme or any other similar initiatives.
In addition, we strongly recommend that in order to strengthen the chances for the NWP to be implemented, the NWP must also include an action plan together with a timeframe and a budget.
The Secretariat of the Convention is ready to provide the necessary advice on further development and implementation when all of these documents are ready.
-- Abou Bamba and Evelyn Moloko Parh, Ramsar regional team for Africa