A lot has changed since November 2019, when the ResilienSEA project awarded four seagrass research scholarships to master’s students. However, the recipients’ determination to complete their programs and protect seagrass ecosystems has not.
In Sierra Leone, the ResilienSEA project continues its series of capacity development workshops in the third out of seven West African pilot countries to wrap up 2019.
From 9-11 December 2019, ResilienSEA held its third national training on seagrasses in Freetown, Sierra Leone. This training was aimed at scientists, technicians and managers, in order for them to learn about the different seagrass species present in West Africa and to identify the best mapping and monitoring techniques to apply to their pilot site.
Facilitated by Dr. Maria Potouroglou, lead of ResilienSEA’s Scientific Research strategy, and by Mr. Mohammed Ahmed Sidi Cheikh, GIS and seagrass specialist, the workshop was organized around the following modules: overview of seagrasses’ biology and ecology; importance of and threats to seagrasses; mapping and monitoring techniques; data collection and analysis; practical GIS exercises.
The participants represented several national institutions, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Sierra Leone Maritime Administration, the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, the Naval Wing of Sierra Leone’s Armed Forces, the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Environment, the Institute of Marine Biology and Oceanography, or the Artisanal Fishers Consortium.
Once the workshop ended, a smaller team led and expedition to Turtle Islands to try and find seagrass for the first time in the country. Find out more about this story here. This last workshop of 2019 was also a chance to hear from the ResilienSEA trainers and Project Manager about the project’s past year activities.
“We are very happy to have concluded our seagrass trainings for 2019 in Sierra Leone – a country with very limited knowledge on seagrass”, commented Dr. Potouroglou. Until 2 years ago, the knowledge on seagrasses in the region was limited, but this is not the case anymore. ResilienSEA has as an ultimate goal to put West Africa on the global seagrass map, and I am confident our partner countries and the project team have already succeeded with that. Onwards and upwards for seagrasses in West Africa in 2020!”
“Overall, the participants received a lot of information on the ecology and biology of seagrass beds and the ecosystem services that can be obtained from them. They also discussed the potential threats to seagrass beds, both those of anthropogenic origin and those of natural origin, as well as the need to put in place solid management mechanisms by involving all stakeholders”, Mr. Sidi Cheikh emphasized regarding the success of the training. With confidence, he added: “We believe that during the year 2020, the same dynamic will continue and that we will see several actions by all the national institutions in each ResilienSEA pilot countries”.
“2019 was really a ground-breaking year for ResilienSEA. We started the year off with the very successful regional training workshop in Joal-Fadiouth and wrapped up the year with three follow-up national trainings on seagrass ecosystems. In between, we confirmed the presence of seagrass meadows in most of the region, and even discovered previously unknown beds in some of our pilot sites! We look forward to continuing to work with our partners to produce even more impactful activities and outreach in 2020″, concluded Mrs. Tanya Bryan, Programme Leader at GRID-Arendal.