Ramsar Pre-accession Workshop, Seychelles, 2-7 February 2004
Just after World Wetlands Day, Abou Bamba, Ramsar Senior Advisor for Africa, visited Mahe, Seychelles, in order to facilitate the Seychelles pre-accession workshop, hold discussions with officials on the next steps for Seychelles' ratification, and make a series of field visits of the Seychelles wetland sites to be designated.
Hon. Ronny Jumeau, Minister of Environment and Natural Resources of Seychelles, opened the workshop and delivered a strong and vivid speech in favor of wetland protection in his country. He advocated for the wetlands not to become wastelands in Seychelles and the world.
Participants came from different government services, the NGO sector and the general public. The Ramsar Advisor for Africa and the WWF-Madagacar representative were the main presenters although two staff from the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources presented some very specific case-studies on Seychelles wetlands. After the first two general presentations, participants asked why Seychelles had not yet ratified the convention since it seemed that there were some advantages and benefits. This question was answered by the Ministry Permanent Secretary, Mr. Ralph Payet, who participated in the workshop for the first day - he indicated that the government wanted to complete the consultation process before, of which this workshop was a part.
Despite the fact that it has not yet ratified the Convention, Seychelles has achieved tremendous progress as far as wetland conservation is concerned. One can list the following: i) an inventory of most of the freshwater wetland sites of the country, ii) a GIS tool to monitor the state of the wetlands, and iii) a draft National Wetland Policy document. In addition, there is a quite good understanding of wetland issues among the District Administrators who attended the workshop.
The role of WWF-Madagascar was instrumental to the success of the workshop, the staff of which were able to illustrate the global presentations with some examples from the Indian Ocean subregion with emphasis on Mauritius and Madagascar. Participants were split into groups during the last half day to answer the following questions: i) do you think it's a good idea to join the Ramsar Convention? ii) How have you benefited from this workshop?, iii) do you think that we should organize smaller workshop in the future with different districts? From the answers from the groups, one can say that the overall evaluation of the workshop was positive as all the participants (including the representatives of the people) agreed that Seychelles should join Ramsar in a reasonable deadline.
Two field trips were organized to both the freshwater and marine wetlands that the country would like to designate as Wetlands of International Importance, one of which is already a World Heritage site.
The Ramsar Secretariat hopes to continue its support to Seychelles, both in its progress towards accession and in helping in the completion of the National Wetlands Policy and wetlands inventory, as the government and other stakeholders are very motivated for the country's accession to the Convention.
Financial support for the meeting was provided by the Ramsar Swiss Grant for Africa (Government of Switzerland) and WWF-Madagascar.
-- reported by Abou Bamba, Senior Advisor for Africa