West African environmental ministers to meet at UNESCO to launch new regional projectParis, January 22 – West African environmental ministers will meet at a UNESCO roundtable on January 26 to launch a new project, with a budget of more than US$6 million, that will include the first comprehensive study of biodiversity in the region’s biosphere reserves.
UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura will open the roundtable on “the role of biosphere reserves as laboratories for sustainable development for NEPAD” (New Partnership for Africa’s Development). The following ministers will attend: Burkina Faso Environment Minister Dakar Djiri, Côte d’Ivoire Secretary of State and Environment Minister Angèle Gnonsoa, Mali Environment Minister Nancouma Keïta, Niger Minister for Hydraulics, Environment and the Fight against Desertification Mahaman Chaïbou and Senegal Environment Minister Modou Fada Diagne, who is also coordinator for NEPAD’s environment initiative. A leading official from the Benin environment ministry is expected in addition to numerous conservationists, park rangers working in the region and representatives from UN agencies and funding organizations.
The new project will combine a range of activities over the next four years to improve the protection and sustainable development of biosphere reserves in the region. While compiling an inventory of the reserves’ plants and animals, the project will also put in place a series of scientific and institutional structures to monitor and manage natural resources over the long-term and the impact of human activities (such as agriculture, pastoralism, hunting and fishing). Local communities will also take part in alternative economic activities, such as eco-tourism.
UNESCO and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) will coordinate the project with national authorities and local non-governmental organizations. The project budget of more than six million dollars will be partly provided by the Global Environmental Fund (GEF). This will be the first time that a UNESCO project receives GEF funding.
The following biosphere reserves will be the focus of activities: Pendjari (Benin), Mare aux Hippopotames (Burkina Faso), Comoé (Côte d’Ivoire), Boucle du Baoulé (Mali), ‘W’ Region (Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger), and Niokola-Koba (Senegal).
For accreditation, journalists wishing to attend should contact
UNESCO’s Press Service, tel: (+33) (0)1 45 68 17 48
For more information on biosphere reserves: http://www.unesco.org/mab