27/10/2014 SEM project: A technical team visit to Dungonab MPA, Sudan

In the framework of the implementation of the Strategic Ecosystem Management of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden (SEM) project, a technical team conducted a mission to Dungonab MPA in Sudan, one of the project’s pilot sites, during the period 27th October to 1st November 2014. The mission team included Dr. Ahmed Khalil, PERSGA Coordinator for Living Marine Resources and Climate Change; Dr. Maher Amer, PERSGA Coordinator for Biodiversity and MPAs; Professor Mahmoud Hanafy, SEM project consultant for capacity building for MPA management; and Dr. Mohamed Zibdeh, SEM project consultant for building the capacity of local user groups and fishing communities.

Executed by PERSGA and implemented by the World Bank with support from GEF, the SEM project aims to build the necessary regional capacity to implement an ecosystem-based approach for the management of coastal and marine resources in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. The project interventions are based on promoting MPA management within the overall concept and principles of a Marine Managed Area. This includes building the capacities of local user groups for sustainable marine fisheries and tourism development, and effective monitoring to support the ecosystem-based management approach.

The mission aimed to achieve the following objectives:

Familiarize the SEM consultants with the project site, national partners, steering committee and local community members;

Identify and discuss capacity building needs, priorities and requirements under components 1 and 2 (MPA management/fishing communities) with the national stakeholders, partners and experts;

Assess facilities for organizing future capacity building and awareness workshops and activities;

Discuss and establish procedures for the upcoming consultation meetings and surveys to develop the MPA zoning and management plan; this includes its structure, including a consultation committee of stakeholders. Hold discussions on a future consultation process to identify the priorities and options for livelihood subprojects to be included in the terms of reference of consultants hired to provide technical assistance;

Provide further awareness about project objectives and activities to local stakeholders and authorities.

The mission team carried out a series of meetings with the national authority and local counterparts. These included HE Mr. Abdallah Kunna, Minister for Environment, Tourism and Wildlife of the Red Sea; Mr. Nasreldin Awad, the SEM National Coordinator and Undersecretary at the Ministry and his Deputy, Mr. Ashpo Ohag; and the expert members of the National Steering Committee of the SEM project in Sudan. The meeting with the NSC members included Prof. Ahmed Abdelaziz, Advisor to the Vice Chancellor; Dr. Muammar Eltayeb, Dean, Faculty of Marine Sciences; Dr. Muna Almahy, Director of Marine Fishery Research Center; Mr. Hammad Tukolia, representative of the Fishery Administration; Ms. Ibtisam Osman, representative of the Federal Ministry of Environment; Officer Imad Ibrahim from the Tourism Police; Officer Mustafa Omer from the Wildlife Protection Authority and Director of Dungonab MPA; and Mr. Isa Eisereb, representative of the Dungonab Mayor. The mission team also conducted a field visit to Dungonab MPA. Here they held several consultation meetings with the local community including meetings with the Mayor of Dungonab village, school teachers, local authorities for public health, medical services and the environment, the local fishing community, and a meeting with the site director of the “Gulf Pearl Company” which has recently installed works and facilities for pearl aquaculture.

The meeting with the Minister of Environment and Tourism from the Red Sea State was also attended by the Director and other senior staff from the Ministry. The meeting discussed several issues regarding the project’s objectives, its components and activities, progress made and further details on those project activities that focus on developing the management plan of Dungonab MPA and capacity building to enable implementation of the plan as a pilot site. The mission team provided a brief review of the consultants’ tasks and their anticipated contribution in technical assistance under components 1 and 2 of the project. Based on experience with planning and development of coastal MPAs, the meeting agreed that the project must benefit from lessons learned during the establishment of MPAs in other countries, such as the involvement of the local community. The meeting also noted that tourism is growing along the Sudanese Red Sea coast. Sound policy measures and planning are required to ensure that the environmental impacts seen and suffered by other countries are avoided as ecotourism, with proper management, can contribute positively to the local economy and raise the value of marine biodiversity. In his closing remarks, HE Mr. Abdallah Kunna confirmed that his Ministry will provide all possible support to the project and facilitate its implementation to ensure that the project achieves its objectives and delivers sustainable outcomes.

Meetings of the mission team with the National Steering Committee (NSC) and with the local community at the project site considered the characteristics of the pilot site in relation to the project’s objectives and the current strengths and weaknesses in the plans for project implementation and capacity building. Most of the natural habitats in rural coastal areas are still in a pristine state with little disturbance, mainly because of the low population in these areas. The two urban centres, Port Sudan and Suakin, hold the vast majority of the 1.5 million people living in the Red Sea State. In some rural areas the population density may only reach 1-2 persons per square kilometer, as in the Dungonab area. Activities targeting human resources should also take note that the population in the area is declining due to ever-increasing rural to urban migration, in addition to lessons learned from previous interventions and projects. Proper management of the MPA requires an effective coordination mechanism between the national and state authorities, as well as the dynamic participation of the private sector, NGOs and the local community.

Two projects have previously targeted the area. One was implemented by ACCORD eight to ten years earlier and the other by UNIDO which finished just four years ago. They supported capacity building, the installation of a landing site and fishery infrastructure, and income support activities.
The training and capacity building provided by the SEM project will build on these earlier efforts and focus on the best approaches to improve the fish production/marketing chain, including finfish, shellfish and pearl oyster culture. Other issues tackled by the project will include monitoring of fishery and coastal habitats through MPA management; gender and family contribution to household income; ecotourism; environmental education and awareness. Training related to the management of fishery cooperatives is essential to promote sustainable fish production and marketing. Potential opportunities for income diversification exist through revitalizing the activities of the oyster farm facility, establishing business opportunities for ecotourism, and through support for household production of livestock, poultry and handcrafts. However, ecological restoration and protection of natural pastoral and fishery habitats, such as coastal vegetation, mangroves, spawning grounds and populations of species under pressure (e.g., nagil, sea cucumber) is essential to support these proposed income generating activities.

The Regional Organization for the Conservation of the Environment in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden