This month we turn our attention to the 11th United Nations Sustainable Development Goal – a goal aspiring for inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities and communities. Considering the current unprecedented global population growth and urbanization rates, ensuring that our cities and communities develop sustainably is critical. This is especially true in Seychelles, where over half (>57%) of the population is living in cities, and with an urbanisation rate of ~ 2.2% per annum, the pressures on available land and natural resources will continue to rise.
While economic development and nature conservation may seem mutually exclusive with polar objectives, the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the complex, yet connected relationship between nature and human development. Additionally, it is becoming increasingly apparent that conserving a nation’s biodiversity can provide several socio-economic benefits (such as clean water, clean air, food supply, or protection against natural disasters), and is essential for human well-being. Striving for both human development and conservation need not be an either-or scenario. However, careful planning and innovative thinking are necessary for Seychelles to successfully balance continued economic growth while safeguarding her phenomenal biodiversity and unique natural heritage sites.
“Conservation means the wise use of the earth and its resources for the lasting good of mankind” – Gifford Pinchot
On 28th July we celebrate World Nature Conservation Day, a day highlighting that a healthy environment is an integral part of a stable and productive society and promoting the well-being of present and future generations. Conservation strives for sustainable resource use for the benefit of both nature and communities reliant on her resources.
Let’s look at a few exciting projects funded by SeyCCAT that tackle the challenge of creating sustainable communities.
The first step in making progress towards sustainability, and fostering a long-lasting culture of sustainability, is education. SeyCCAT has provided funding for several small projects aimed at education that carries over into concrete actions. For example, Proze Caiman, a project led by Allen Boniface hopes to educate the public through a two-part documentary, “Caiman”. This month saw the launch of Caiman’s premiere – a compelling story focused on the Anse Boileau community and the importance of its mangrove forests. The documentary describes this complex ecosystem through the eyes of local community members that express a common concern: a drastic change in the environment over a relatively short time. These changes are due to over-exploitation, unsustainable development and pollution. The message is clear: we need to change our approach and move towards sustainability (i.e. sustainable fishing and sustainable development). Protecting this unique ecosystem will benefit Seychellois both now and for future generations.
Climate change is a reality that we cannot afford to ignore. Sustainable, eco-friendly development is vital so that communities are not impeded in their ability to respond and adapt to the challenges brought by climate change. In Seychelles, where land suitable for development is incredibly scarce and sought after, protecting nature competes with development. However, if building planning practices are poor, neither will triumph. A project led by the Department of Energy & Climate change aims to implement eco-friendly planning practices on Praslin Island. Using satellite imagery, the project will accurately map mangrove species essential in our fight against climate change. Integrating this information into spatial planning policies will help protect environmentally sensitive areas and promote ecologically sound building practices.
Seychelles is synonymous with island paradise; warm seas, pristine beaches, and astounding fish diversity. However, heavy dependence on fish as both a source of food and tourist attraction leaves Seychelles vulnerable to the impacts of plummeting fish stocks. Addressing the sustainability of fishing is key in protecting the Blue Economy, and who better to tackle this issue than the actual custodians of the marine resources around Seychelles’ islands. A project led by Praslin Fishers Association (PFA) aims to encourage local fishermen on the island of Praslin to voluntarily close the Baie Ste Anne from fishing during the northwest Monsoon. This closure will provide the fish in this area an opportunity to recover in both numbers and size. Turning this area into a Locally Managed Marine Area (LMMA) will empower these fishermen to safeguard the environment and their livelihoods.
Ultimately, biodiversity underpins all life on earth; we rely on biodiversity for sustenance, protection from natural hazards, for our livelihoods, and at times, simply to nourish the soul. Ensuring that our cities and communities grow sustainably without sacrificing our biodiversity will help secure a future for Seychelles in which her children can flourish.
Contributed by Debbie Stanbridge