UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Mono: Digitisation for Nature Conservation
Through targeted digitization and education measures for young people, the non-governmental organization Eco-Benin succeeded in alleviating the anthropogenic pressure on the Mono Biosphere Reserve as part of the #SOSAfricanHeritage programme.
The aim of #SOSAfricanHeritage is to contribute to preserving independent and sustainable organisational structures at African World Heritage sites and Biosphere Reserves with the participation of civil society as well as to secure spaces dedicated to education for global citizenship, sustainability and cultural diversity.
Located in the south-west of Benin and Togo, this site covers an area of 346,285ha. Stretching across the alluvial plain and the delta and riverbank areas of the Mono River, it boasts a mosaic of landscapes and ecosystems consisting mainly of mangroves, savanna, lagoons, floodplains and forests, including sacred forests. The biosphere reserve is home to nearly 2 million people. Main activities include small-scale agriculture, pasture, forestry, and fishing.
At the Bouche du Roy site in Benin, the focus is, among other things, on the conservation of mangrove forests, lagoon systems, the sea and the oviposition sites of four species of sea turtles and manatees, which are threatened according to the World Conservation Union (IUCN). The biosphere reserve is particularly threatened by the overexploitation of mangrove forests, fishing resources and poaching of sea turtles and manatees, as well as by the pollution of the waters with plastic waste.
In order to reduce these pressures while ensuring sustainable management of ecosystems, surveillance patrols and awareness-raising measures have been introduced in recent years.
Restrictions due to the pandemic
With the pandemic-related restrictions, all these actions have been halted. While in 2019 only 19 areas with degraded mangrove swamps were identified by ecological monitoring, this number has increased to 59 degraded areas in May 2020 - without patrols. In addition, the abrupt stop in tourism revenues has intensified overfishing and destruction of flora and fauna.
Remedy through digital monitoring, virtual tourism, and online training
The project funded by the German Commission for UNESCO enabled the NGO Eco-Benin to introduce the digital system "SMART" in the Mono Biosphere Reserve which supports patrol monitoring. SMART enables permanent environmental monitoring on more than 60 percent of the total area of the biosphere reserve - even in pandemic times. For this purpose, the necessary technical equipment was bought and 20 team members were trained in its use. Through to the digital monitoring system, for example, particularly overfished mangrove areas were identified, in which Eco-Benin then conducted targeted educational seminars on more sustainable fishing methods.
In addition, Eco-Benin developed an online training course for the local population - especially for young people - with five teaching units to increase knowledge about the marine ecosystem and raise awareness of the need for conservation measures. The online training was very well received, with some young participants setting up their own initiatives in their villages to reduce waste pollution.
Virtual tourism in the biosphere reserve is now also possible via a newly launched website. Part of the website is a donation page where interested visitors can make targeted donations to the biosphere reserve, thus creating alternative sources of funding for nature conservation.
On the initiative of the Federal Foreign Office and the Goethe-Institut, an International Relief Fund was set up in summer 2020 to provide rapid support to cultural and educational organisations abroad during the Covid-19 pandemic. With its special support programme #SOSAfricanHeritage, the German Commission for UNESCO is part of the Relief Fund consortium.
- Site: Mono
- Country: Benin and Togo
- Type of site: UNESCO Biosphere Reserve
- Year of inscription: 2017