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ODINAFRICA-IV: Statement of the Problem

The availability of reliable, up-to-date, accessible data and information is essential as a basis for integrated coastal area management (ICAM) and the sustainable management of coastal and marine resources. Indeed, the shortage of such data and information has been and continues to be a major constraint to sustainable development in coastal and marine areas in Africa in recent years. For example, the Implementation Plan of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) places great emphasis on the need to obtain information about the environment as the basis for monitoring its behaviour and forecasting the effects of environmental change, so as to provide decision makers with the tools they need to improve and sustain development and to mitigate or reverse undesirable trends or effects.

The direct problem to be addressed by the project proposed (ODINAFRICA-IV) is the lack of up-to-date, comprehensive, accessible, harmonised data and information products to support ICAM and sustainable coastal and marine resources management. This lack of support products is a direct barrier to sustainable management and development in coastal and marine resources.

An increasing number of initiatives, supported by national governments and international partners, to address coastal and marine resources management in an integrated manner has been launched in recent years. A recent review of completed, ongoing and proposed programmes and projects[1], although incomplete, identified projects to a value of over US$1.3 billion, half of which was focussed into sub-Saharan Africa. The Global Environment Facility (GEF) contributed US$ 332.25 million to related activities, of which more than 40 percent was focussed on the Sub-Saharan region. Much of the GEF support was to projects implemented within the framework of Large Marine Ecosystems (LME).

The Agulhas Somali Current LME programme is composed of three projects: (i) WIOLab, (ii) SWIOFP and (iii) ASCLME. The goal of the programme is to ensure the long-term sustainability of the living resources of the ASCLMEs through an ecosystem based approach to management. The project on “ Addressing land-based activities in the Western Indian Ocean - WIO-LaB (implemented by UNEP) addresses some of the major environmental problems and issues related to the degradation of the marine and coastal environment resulting from land-based activities (LBA) in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) region. The objective of South Western Indian Ocean Fisheries Project – SWIOFP (implemented by World Bank) is to promote the sustainable use of fisheries resources and adoption of an ecosystem approach to fisheries management in the Agulhas and Somali LMEs. The objective of the Agulhas and Somali Current LME project (implemented by UNDP)is to undertake an environmental baseline assessment of the Agulhas and Somali Current LMEs to fill information gaps needed to improve management decision making, and to ascertain the role of external forcing functions (such as the Mascarene Plateau and the Southern Equatorial Current).

The Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem programme (BCLME) was designed to improve the structures and capacities of Namibia, Angola and South Africa to deal with their trans-boundary environmental problems and manage the BCLME in an integrated and sustainable manner. Trans-boundary issues include the migration of fish stocks across national boundaries, the introduction of invasive alien species, and the movement of pollutants or harmful algae from the waters of one country into another.  The programme assists governments to manage their shared marine resources - fish, diamond mining and petroleum exploration - in an integrated and sustainable way. Key areas also include environmental variability, coastal zone management, ecosystem health, socio-economics and governance. More than 75 different projects and activities are now being carried out by activity centres in the three countries in close cooperation with the commercial fishing, and oil and gas industries, as well as with the offshore diamond mining industries of Namibia and South Africa.

The project on “Combating Living Resources Depletion and Coastal Area Degradation in the Guinea Current LME through Ecosystem-based Regional Actions” (implemented by UNIDO) has a primary focus on the priority problems and issues that have led to unsustainable fisheries and use of other marine resources, as well as the degradation of marine and coastal ecosystems by human activities. The long-term development goals of the project are: (i) recover and sustain depleted fisheries; (ii) restore degraded habitats; and (iii) reduce land and ship-based pollution by establishing a regional management framework for sustainable use of living and non-living resources in the GCLME region. The project focuses on nine demonstration projects, designed to be replicable and intended to demonstrate how concrete actions can lead to dramatic improvements. The participating countries are: Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Gabon, Ghana, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Nigeria,  Sa Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone and Togo. GCLME plans to develop an Ecosystem Information System (EIS), including cooperation with other available regional EIS. One of the expected results of GCLME was enhanced national and regional data and information acquisition, exchange and management systems to support decision making.

The African Monsoon Multidisciplinary Analyses (AMMA) is a coordinated international project to improve our knowledge and understanding of the West African monsoon (WAM) and its variability. The aims are to: (i) improve our understanding of the WAM and its influence on the physical, chemical and biological environment regionally and globally, (ii) provide the underpinning science that relates climate variability to issues of health, water resources and food security and defining the relevant monitoring strategies, (iii) ensure that the multidisciplinary research carried out in AMMA is effectively integrated with prediction and decision making activity.The PROPAO project (Programme Régional d’Océanographie Physique en Afrique de l’Ouest), as a continuity of the sub-regional AMMA-EGEE efforts. PROPAO involves five African countries (Côte-d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin and Nigeria) and is supported by IRD (Institut de Recherche pour le Développement) of France. PROPAO seeks to fill an important gap by providing data on coastal (near shore) sea surface temperatures north of the Gulf of Guinea through a network of autonomous thermometers to complement data obtained through offshore facilities such as PIRATA buoys and Argo floats. In addition, PROPAO aims also to enhance regional capacity in physical oceanography.

The objective of the project on “Adaptation to Climate Change – Responding to Coastline Change in its human dimensions in West Africa through Integrated Coastal Area Management – ACCA (implemented by UNDP in close collaboration with UNESCO/IOC)  is to develop and pilot a range of effective coping mechanisms for reducing the impact of climate change induced coastal erosion in vulnerable regions in the five countries of West Africa.  The project aims to reduce the vulnerability and to increase adaptive capacity to the adverse effects of climate change. One of the outputs of the project, which will be implemented in Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde is a web-based “clearing house mechanism” for monitoring of erosion and lessons learned.

Although previous phases of ODINAFRICA have significantly improved access to data and information, the data from many regional and global marine related projects and programmes that have been implemented in Africa over the years, though in the public-domain, remain virtually inaccessible to marine scientists and resource managers. This is due to the combined effect of several factors, which pose a challenge to a greater or lesser degree across the continent. Some of the factors responsible include:

  • complex data use agreements for countries
  • reluctance to share data without financial compensation, often because of the burden of time required to handle data on an ad-hoc basis
  • scattered silos of data in various institutions
  • the fact that many data are not digitised, and
  • the wide variety of data formats and metadata formats that are prevalent, making inter-institutional data sharing a challenge.

This environment is compounded by the nature of ICT infrastructure in most countries, with Internet quota limits or limited access to bandwidth, and even intermittent electricity supply to institutions. In some cases, projects and programmes that have generated valuable data sets have not had a good institutional home, and the lack of continuity of management has led to data being lost once programmes cease to be funded.

ODINAFRICA will collaborate with these and other projects to develop products from the data generated and to ensure that the data and products are widely accessible to users.


[1] Review of Projects and Programmes in the Coastal and Marine Environment of Africa within the framework of NEPAD, prepared for NEPAD COSMAR/UNESCO/IOC (2007)


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