MPA Perspective: MPA Management Policies in West Africa: Recommended Guidelines for Balancing Conservation and Development

MPA News

Editor's note: Bertrand Cazalet is a Ph.D. student in public law at the University of Perpignan, France. From 2002-2005, he assisted the European Commission-funded CONSDEV project, described in the following essay.

By Bertrand Cazalet

In 2002, the European Commission funded a three-year project to develop options for improving governance of coastal and marine protected areas in West Africa. Called the CONSDEV Project ("Coherence of Conservation and Development Policies on Coastal and Marine Protected Areas in West Africa"), the project studied existing protected areas in the nations of Mauritania, Senegal, and Guinea-Bissau. Partners on the project included IUCN, Banc d'Arguin National Park (Mauritania), the Institute of Research for Development (France), the Parks Directorate of Senegal, the University of Perpignan (France), and the University of Portsmouth (UK).

The project was completed in December 2005, and its findings are available on the CONSDEV project website, http://www.resed.org/consdev. These findings are summarized below as a set of four guidelines for optimizing MPA governance in the region:

1. Improve integration of MPA site management with regional and national policies.

MPA management should be aligned with objectives already proclaimed by these West African nations: instituting responsible fishing policies that account for fisheries effects of individual MPAs; harnessing MPAs as a tool to reduce poverty; and acknowledging and embracing linkages between conservation programs and long-term economic sustainability for the region. Conservation and the economy are generally compartmentalized in West Africa, and no state is yet on the path to sustainable conditions.

2. Redefine the role of national governments in MPAs.

International NGOs are playing a growing role in developing and carrying out projects at MPAs in the region, partly in response to decay in the role of state governments. However, governments still retain unique authority that should not be wasted. The authority should be repositioned through administrative reforms and institutional reinforcement: e.g., reducing procedures and bureaucracy; coordinating participative management programs; opening up sites to private financing opportunities; and increasing staff. Governments should also strike a balance between placing fewer limits on economic activity in MPAs and strengthening regulation of dense, seasonal human migrations along the coast, including across MPA boundaries (a significant phenomenon in the region).

3. Recognize territorial rights-of-use of human populations.

Granting of territorial rights-of-use exists on a de facto basis in the region's MPAs, but is neither formally recognized nor guaranteed for the indigenous population. Several legal models could be generalized and implemented on an experimental basis, including a gradual concession by government of marine and terrestrial territory in MPAs, with various terms and conditions. These rights-of-use should be legitimized through a joint traditional/state process to fix concessions according to empirical and legal criteria. The decision process must address issues related to the seasonal human migrations, as well as user conflicts and unsustainable exploitation of fisheries.

4. Develop ecotourism in MPAs.

The use of ecotourism as a means to generate socioeconomic advantages for local populations should effectively be part of national tourism policies, and perhaps even coordinated on a regional basis. It should employ local guides, with tourists being able to stay in village camps inside MPAs, and resulting economic benefits should be shared within communities. For this to be effective, prior improvements will likely be necessary in local public infrastructure for health, hygiene, education, and waste management.

For more information:

Bertrand Cazalet, CERTAP laboratory, University of Perpignan, Via Domitia, 52 Av. Paul Alduy, 66 860 Perpignan, France. E-mail: bertrandcazalet [at] yahoo.fr; Web: www.resed.org/consdev

Jean-Yves Weigel, IRD France, CONSDEV Project general coordinator. E-mail: Jean-Yves.Weigel [at] ird.fr