RASTOMA and WATSCON organized the 1st regional congress on marine turtles of Central and West Africa
Faced with the growing threats to marine turtles, African civil society actors are organizing themselves into networks to strengthen the protection of these emblematic and endangered species. The five species of marine turtles found in Central and West Africa are classified from « vulnerable » to « critically endangered » on the IUCN Red List. Supported by the Small Initiatives Program (PPI) managed by the French Committee of IUCN, the two ‘brother’ networks for the conservation of marine turtles, RASTOMA (Network of Actors for the Protection of Marine Turtles in Central Africa) and WASTCON (West African Sea Turtle Conservation Network), organized from 9 to 13 November 2020, in Lomé, Togo, their first regional congress on marine turtles in West and Central Africa.
This congress is a key step in building a concrete and effective regional marine turtle conservation strategy along the Atlantic coasts of Africa. The two networks are joining forces to put in place a « bottom-up » approach, innovative because it is supported by civil society with the support of African regional institutions and in partnership with the states of Central and West Africa.
The RASTOMA WASTCON regional congress brought together more than 60 actors, from 13 countries, committed to the preservation of marine turtles and coastal habitats in Atlantic Africa. The objective was to strengthen the dynamic of collaboration and exchanges between civil societies working on marine turtles in Central and West Africa. Members of the two networks benefited from a capacity building program based on their expressed needs. RASTOMA and WASTCON also held their respective general meetings. The two networks then came together for a strategic working session, in order to define the priorities for action that will guide future collaborations.
At the end of the strategic workshop, the two networks prioritized:
In the short term (within one year): (1) harmonization of ecological monitoring and data collection methods to acquire the knowledge and indicators essential for the monitoring and conservation of marine turtles; (2) the capitalization and sharing of resources and tools for environmental education and awareness in the conservation of marine turtles and their habitats; (3) capitalization and exchange of experiences on Income Generating Activities including ecotourism.
And in the medium term (3 years): (1) sharing of experiences on advocacy for the strengthening of the legislative arsenal and the application of laws favorable to marine turtles and their habitats; (2) the organization of an African Symposium on the Conservation of Marine Turtles; (3) the production and distribution of a regional newsletter which will highlight the actions and news of Civil Society Organizations of the two networks.
Following the strategic workshop, the participants also benefited from training sessions, organized by RASTOMA, in response to the expectations expressed by the members of the two networks: a day on monitoring marine turtles on land and at sea, an introductory workshop on the QGIS geographic information system, a round table to boost and diversify the search for funding and partnerships. The training materials for these workshops are available online on the RASTOMA website and can be downloaded here.
For more information, visit www.rastoma.org