Call edition 2012

A new edition of the Prize of the Belgian Development Cooperation has been launched. This call is open until March 31st, 2011. You can read in the regulations whether you comply with the criteria for participation.

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Interview with Mohamed Omar Said Mohamed

Mohamed Omar Said Mohamed’s Ph.D. thesis focused on the impact of human pollution and exploitation on mangroves in his home country, Kenya. His current project aims at generating important ecological, economic and socio-cultural information that justifies the establishment of the Marereni Marine Protected Area.
In this interview, Mohamed talks about the start of the project, his achievements and what the future holds.

On March 24th 2010, you won the Prize of the Belgian Development Cooperation. Which were the first steps you took to develop your project?

Definitely, this was a memorable occasion to me. It is such a grand achievement. Initially, I assessed the most critical issues to be addressed in relation to my study and also my work as a Senior Scientist in a conservation area at the Kenya Wildlife Service. Addressing issues directly linked to my study and my work will be of great value to my career. This turned out to be the imminent threat to coastal and marine ecosystems and thus to biodiversity. Of all the activities I was conducting at the moment, the sea turtle conservation program had interesting and challenging opportunities, linking to all critical marine and coastal ecosystems, addressing threats to these ecosystems and loss of biodiversity. In particular, the linkages with coastal communities were an opportunity to integrate science, management and advocacy through awareness creation, capacity building, and joint monitoring and management initiatives or partnerships. I thus selected the Marereni area, where locals are interested in conservation, but lacked the techniques and the background or baseline information on their ecosystems and biodiversity. I saw it as a big achievement to contribute towards the establishment of a Marine Protected Area by generating baseline information on the ecosystems and the socio-economic status of the local community. I therefore developed the concept based on the needs of the initial assessments for the area.

You received a credit line of 15000€. Which concrete activities have you undertaken with this budget?

I have so far conducted consultative meetings for needs assessments with the local communities and have also conducted some training for data collection. We have so far established a vibrant sea turtle monitoring program, conducted a baseline survey of the patchy coral reefs. Through these activities, I have so far managed to raise the profile of the area and created awareness on biodiversity conservation. I am currently preparing to conduct the second assessment of the coral reefs, the mangroves and the extensive sandy beaches.

What will be the next steps to realize your project?

Throughout the study, I have realized that it is necessary to involve all stakeholders in the conservation of the area. I am therefore planning for a meeting with all Government representatives working in the area to advocate the creation of a Marine Protected Area in Marereni. Similar meetings have been planned for the local fishermen, who are very important in addressing sustainable resource utilization.

Has your participation in the Prize strengthened your link with the Belgian Development Cooperation?

I think it has. It has crowned my career development from the master’s degree and the doctorate levels, both sponsored by the VLIR under the Belgian Development Cooperation. This has made the Belgian Development Cooperation a significant contributor to my career.

Do you think this prize can have a long-term influence on your scientific career?

Yes, the Prize does have a long-term influence on my scientific career. Through this Prize, I have managed to work and gain experience in new areas such as the establishment of a Marine Protected Area, which is a very rare opportunity and its impacts are long-term for generations to come. Furthermore, it gives me the experience on how to handle such a delicate process.

May we ask you to give a short description of your project?

This concept aims at generating important ecological, economic and socio-cultural information that justifies the establishment of the Marereni Marine Protected Area. This shall promote conservation of critical marine and coastal habitats, promote non-extractive uses and diversify means of livelihoods. Eventually, this promotes resilience in coastal and marine ecosystems, buffering the effects of climate change, and mitigates environmental degradation. Specifically, the project aims at (i) conducting detailed baseline surveys to define the high value biodiversity resources in the proposed Marereni MPA (e.g. mangroves, coral reefs), (ii) assess the socio-economic status and opportunities for resident communities in the proposed Marereni MPA catchments, and (iii) develop and finalize a draft concept note for the gazettement of the area by the Government.