Wetlands and poverty alleviation
Under deep blue skies and brilliant sunlight, WWF International celebrated the end of its 2004 Annual Conference, 6-10 June 2004, with an event dedicated to the Convention on Wetlands.
The event took place in the small urban wetland of Tsarasaotra, in the outskirts of Antananarivo, capital of Madagascar, which has been proposed as a Ramsar site. During the ceremony, the president of WWF International chief Emeka Anyaoku proclaimed as a 'Gift to the Earth' the decision of the Malagasy government to designate more than 1 million hectares of wetlands as Ramsar sites (among which Lake Alaotra of 772,000 hectares) and to develop rapidly a National Wetland Strategy for the sustainable management of Madagascar's wetlands. From the Ministry of Environment, Water and Forests, Ms. Sahondra Rabesihanaka, Ramsar focal point for this country, explained in detail the measures taken by the government concerning wetlands and the positive perspectives for the future, later confirmed by the secretary general of the Ministry.
The WWF Conference, which brought together about 200 individuals from all over the globe, was devoted to the collaboration between the NGO sector and the donor agencies. A considerable number of them were represented in the meeting (such as AFD, the European Commission, KfW and USAID), and the discussions between the two sides proved to be quite fruitful. A key conclusion was the need for close collaboration in defining common objectives and priorities and in increasing the overall funds allocated for environment and biodiversity, which are at present quite low.
A recurring theme, in view also of the dire economic conditions of the people in Madagascar, was poverty alleviation. There was convincing argumentation that this should be a concern of the environmental movement, and that efforts to conserve biodiversity and use natural resources sustainably are a major factor in combating poverty in the long term. This was considered particularly evident in the case of wetlands, on which - as demonstrated concretely by a number of WWF case studies from Africa and South America - freshwater supply depends critically.
The MedWet senior advisor, Thymio Papayannis, in his capacity of retiring president of WWF Greece, participated in the Conference and introduced the issues of governance and accountability during the Chairpersons' meeting. In this context, a positive element noted was the large number of participants from many parts of the world; WWF, led by its Nigerian president, is truly becoming a global organisation.
The president of WWF International, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, and the representative of the three community associations that are currently managing the Complexe des lacs de Manambolomaty Ramsar Site.
Chief Emeka Anyaoku, President of WWF International with the awardees (7 people, see names below), Jean-Paul Paddack (far right), the Ranarivelos (owners of Tsarasaotra), representatives of partner NGOs (Durell Wildlife Conservation Trust, The Peregrine Fund & Wildlife Conservation Society)
Jean-Paul Paddack, Regional Representative, WWF Madagascar/West Indian Ocean Programme Officer (left), and HE Chief Emeka Anyaoka (center), surrounded by the Ranarivelos, owners of the Parc Privé de Tsarasaotra, proposed Ramsar Site.
The Parc privé de Tsarasaotra, proposed Ramsar Site.
-- reported by Thymio Papayannis;
photos by WWF/Sylvain Rafiadana-Ntsoa and Thymio Papayannis;
photo captions provided by Simon Rafanomezantsoa, WWF Madagascar
The awardees (holding certificates) in the photo above:
On the left of Chief:
1- Mr Zo Lalaina Razafiarison, Director General of Environment, holding the Certificate for Mr Charles Sylvain Rabotoarison, Minister of Environment, Water and Forests (he was absent that is why the DG came);
2- Mrs Sahondra Rabesihanaka, Focal point (Daily contact) for the Ramsar Convention (with the red pullover)
3- Mr Solofo Andriatsarafara, representing the National Ramsar Committee (CONARAMS for Comité National Ramsar) (white jacket)
5- Mr René Randriamboahanginjatovo, President of "Alaotra Rano Soa", the management structure for Alaotra basin Ramsar site
On the right of Chief:
4- Mr Rodin Rajaonahsoa, Director General of Water and Forests (Ramsar AA for Madagascar)
6- Mr Guy Suzon Ramangason, Director General of the National Parks Service (ANGAP for Association Nationale pour la Gestion des Aires Protégées), manager of Lac de Tsimanampetsotsa Ramsar site (National Park)
7- Mr Baban'i Rody, representative of the 3 associations managing Complexe des lacs de Manambolomaty RS