In October 2022, the GEF-funded Western Indian Ocean Large Marine Ecosystems Strategic Action Programme Policy Harmonization and Institutional Reforms (SAPPHIRE) Project held its fifth Project Steering Committee (PSC) meeting. This meeting was held in person in Gqeberha, South Africa against the backdrop of the 12th WIOMSA Scientific Symposium, the premier regional convening of scientists in the Western Indian Ocean on issues concerning the coastal and marine environment.
The meeting was attended by SAPPHIRE’s Focal Points from Kenya (virtually), Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, Somalia, Tanzania and the Republic of South Africa. A representative from UNDP, SAPPHIRE’s implementing agency was also in attendance albeit virtually, as well as two observers from the Benguela Current Commission. In addition, several Nairobi Convention Focal Points and representative from implementing partners also attended as observers.
The fifth SAPPHIRE PSC meeting was remarkable since besides the presentation of overall project progress and updates, the project’s mid term review (MTR) report and recommendations were presented to its Focal Points for the first time since its completion by an external reviewer in July 2022. It was also the first time since 2019 that the PSC had met in person. The purpose of the MTR was to assess if the project implementation plan was still on-track, and to identify the problems, challenges and mitigating measures that can be taken to enhance the impact of the SAPPHIRE project. The MTR also assessed SAPPHIRE’s relevance, effectiveness, and efficiency, and looked into the future by predicting its ability to achieve its intended outcomes, impacts and sustainability. Additionally, the MTR analyzed the project’s financial management, monitoring and reporting procedures.
In summary, the SAPPHIRE project was rated by the external reviewer as a highly relevant project for the implementation of the Strategic Action Plan (SAP) in the WIO, since its scope is wide and highly relevant for the development of the nine countries it serves. However, due to challenges linked to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns and travel restrictions at a time when its implementation should have picked up pace, it was acknowledged that progress was significantly slowed down.
As part of recommendations from the MTR, the SAPPHIRE project was found to be deserving of an 18-month no-cost extension which would allow for the effective use of its funds and push further towards the achievement of the project’s goals. Among other recommendations was the need to enhance private sector stakeholder engagement – an action that the project is already implementing in partnership with the WIOGI project which is supported by GIZ and commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). A major result of the fifth SAPPHIRE PSC meeting was the approval of the MTR by the PSC, and endorsement of the budget and workplan documentation to be submitted as part of the request for the 18-month extension.
The SAPPHIRE project exists to promote policy and institutional reform to help improve the management of the Western Indian Ocean Large Marine Ecosystems (LMEs), and builds capacity among governments, communities, partners, intergovernmental organizations and the private sector for sustainable resource management and ocean governance. The overarching objective of the SAPPHIRE Project is to achieve effective long-term ecosystem management in the Western Indian Ocean LMEs in line with the Strategic Action Programme as endorsed by Nairobi Convention’s Contracting Parties.