Events Ascame/ March 2, 2024/ Ascame projects, Featured

ASCAME is part of the Reboot MED Project, which aims to recover, experiment and boost ecotourism in the WestMed region. This is a 2-year flagship project, focused on the post-Covid-19 recovery of tourism in the Western Mediterranean. It is led by Petra Patrimonia Corsica and co-financed by the European Fund for Maritime Fisheries and Fisheries (EMFAF) and aims to generate growth, create green jobs and offer a better living environment to Mediterranean populations. The project has a total of 9 partners from different Mediterranean countries. One of them is the Diawling National Park (NDP) in Mauritania, whose director, Mr. Daf Sehla DAF, shares in the following interview some insights on the participation in this project and its impact on the preservation of biodiversity, ecosystems and on the economic development of the region.

Why did you become interested in the Reboot project?
Participating in this project was a unique opportunity to strengthen the sustainable management and biodiversity conservation measures of the Diawling National Park while promoting sustainable tourism and strengthening the resilience of the local communities living in this territory. Our aim was to highlight the products and activities that can be developed in this field through the sustainable use of natural resources, involving all local, national and international actors. For example, we have considered activities related to ecotourism, as part of our commitment to the blue economy and green tourism with less impact on the environment. We are also considering actions to conserve the native species of this protected area, as well as to preserve natural resources and combat the effects of climate change, such as possible flooding, coastal erosion, soil degradation, loss of biodiversity, etc. To this end, we have created an observatory to monitor all these actions and the results obtained, and we are conducting an awareness campaign aimed at the entire population, following an Environmental Education program.

Mauritania is one of 10 pilot regions testing eco/blue economy tourism packages through its project. Why did you choose the protected area of the Diawling National Park to carry out this test?
First of all, the desert covers nearly 75% of the national territory and the conservation of the park’s biodiversity is a priority for the government, in line with the commitments of the international community. The Park is also known for its unique experience in ecosystem restoration. Also, the preservation of the environment and the common fight against the effects of climate change make it possible to strengthen the resilience of the local population. Secondly, because of the possibility of promoting sustainable tourism in a protected area such as this, by implementing actions related to ecotourism that will have an economic impact on the communities of the region and increase the international notoriety of the park. In addition, it is an excellent opportunity to find synergies between all actors, involving the local population throughout the process, as well as public and private partners, in line with the broad guidelines of the public authorities. To sum up, Mauritania has considerable tourism potential and it should be developed and promoted with a view to sustainability, in other words green tourism.

How do you ensure harmony between the conservation of the diversity of landscapes, ecosystems and plant and animal species in this area and local development and tourism activities?
As I mentioned earlier, the strategy for developing ecotourism in this area is in line with the objectives we set ourselves in 1991 when the park was created. All these objectives are linked to preserving biodiversity, developing an action plan to combat climate change and guaranteeing the livelihood of the local population through sustainable tourism and the use of natural resources. The Mauritanian government is in favour of combining the conservation of this natural ecosystem with the development of sustainable tourism activities. The Reboot project also focuses on the transition to a blue economy. Nature-based solutions to environmental degradation are the only way to solve the problem of climate change.

What is the real impact of the increase in visitor numbers on the multiple environmental pressures in protected areas such as this?
The increase in the number of tourists and public transport vehicles that we have seen in recent times has led to a considerable increase in noise pollution, which has disturbed the tranquillity of the bird populations that we have in this area. But what is even more urgent is the production of waste, which has an environmental, economic, health and social impact. For this reason, we are working on a waste management plan, with a specific waste collection programme. As this is a protected area, it is a priority to promote sustainable tourism practices. As a result, some parts of the park have limited access or are inaccessible altogether.

Experts say that cooperation is essential to meet this challenge. What type of cooperation would you propose? How would you mobilise the WestMed community to move towards the concept of co-responsibility in the face of this challenge?
When you talk about measures to preserve biodiversity in protected areas such as the Diawling National Park, you have to involve the local population, the public administration and the private sector. It is important that there is participatory governance and that awareness-raising activities are carried out in all areas, including in schools. The exchange visits organised as part of the Reboot project have also enabled us to share and find sustainable solutions to some of the major challenges facing the promotion and development of green tourism.

In what sense can a blue economy have an impact on job creation and the improvement of the living environment of Mediterranean populations and tourist ecosystems?
There is no doubt that any sustainable blue economy strategy has an impact not only on the protection of coastal and marine biodiversity and the improvement of its habitats, but also on the creation of green jobs. The preservation of the environment and the promotion of ecotourism have an impact on the increased demand for professionals in various fields, such as organic farmers, the promotion of craft products, eco-entrepreneurs or staff dedicated to waste management. In our case, we are seeking to reactivate this area economically while preserving a unique natural environment. This requires a change in mentality, not only from the point of view of tourists and the local population, but also from the point of view of the type of socio-economic activity we are developing in this region.

Have you had the opportunity to exchange your impressions with some of the other 5 WestMed countries on the implementation of the Reboot Med project?
Yes, because the Living Labs organised by the Reboot project were an excellent opportunity to exchange experiences in different countries. During these meetings, I became aware of the uniqueness of our country and its biodiversity, where there is not as much mass tourism as in other territories and where we still have time to launch innovative initiatives that reactivate the economy and preserve the environment and cultural heritage.

 

What are the main lessons learned from this project?
The lessons learned are many and varied, starting with the multiculturalism of the project, which has enabled me to exchange views and experiences with partners from other countries. The Reboot project is an excellent opportunity to launch new tourism initiatives with less environmental impact on national, sub-regional and international markets. It is a unique experience that enables synergies to be established between the local population, ecotourism experts and managers committed to sustainability. To which I would add the creation of green jobs, which not only have an impact on the economic development of the region but also make the local population more resilient. It’s also worth noting that we’re now in the experimental phase of the project, and in the next phase we’ll be assessing the investment needs derived from the various tourism products we’re planning. There’s still a long way to go, a very long way indeed, but there’s no doubt that the road we’ve travelled so far has been very rewarding at every level and presents many opportunities for the future of the Diawling National Park. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the partners in the Reboot project, in particular the coordination team, and I would also like to extend my warmest thanks to the project’s donor, the European Union, which is a partner of Mauritania in several sectors, in particular the preservation of coastal and marine biodiversity, from which the Diawling National Park benefits.

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