The wealth of nature along West Africa’s coastal fringe comes from an upwelling of nutrients into the warm, shallow seas that mark the Sahara’s embrace of Atlantic swells.
The abundance of life makes the area a haven for birds, with the Banc d’Arguin National Park (PNBA) alone featuring more than 2.5 million seasonally or permanently. The park’s role as wintering ground for vast flocks of Palearctic waders and other birds means any conservation threats it suffers risk knock-on effects across large parts of the northern hemisphere.
Regional biodiversity hinges on the more than 1,000 fish species surveyed in habitats that vary from estuaries to mangroves, sandy beaches, mudflats and sea-grass beds. It includes the critically endangered monk seal (Monachus monachus) and vulnerable West African manatee (Trichechus senegalensis) as well as hippopotamus, crocodile, numerous whales, dolphins, sharks and rays.
Traditional communities such as the Imraguen in Mauritania’s Banc d’Arguin and Bijagó of Guinea-Bissau share strong bonds with their natural environments. But they now face the difficult challenge of sustainability.
For all the political challenges faced by West African coastal states, there have been some notable national and regional conservation efforts. They include a regional strategy for marine protected areas (MPA) tied together in 2007 under RAMPAO, the West African regional network of marine protected areas. All seven signatory states are also party to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Ramsar Convention on wetlands.
It was Théodore Monod who introduced Luc Hoffmann to the Banc d’Arguin’s unique biodiversity in the 1970s. After the creation of FIBA in 1986, an organisation in which the family is still deeply involved, MAVA’s work opened new areas of actions. Future projects will strengthen existing partnerships and build new ones, especially with local groups and the private sector. Our first priority will be MPAs, a key for biodiversity conservation and fisheries management, and a source of outstanding successes in the past. This includes working with local communities and administrations. We will also accompany the strengthening of West Africa’s lively society and promote good practice in extractives industries and tourism.
List of countries covered:
Coastal zones of : Cape Verde, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Mauritania, Senegal, Sierra Leone