The Western Indian Ocean region ranks as one of the most biodiverse in the world. From the rich biological reservoir that is the Northern Mozambique Channel to the unique coastal ecosystems supporting endangered marine life to the scores of species found nowhere else on earth, this biodiversity is intrinsic to human lives, economies, and health here. Indeed, the ecological services provided by this biodiversity, along with other ocean assets, is estimated to be worth a staggering 338 billion.
Yet the region, like many other parts of the globe, is being degraded by human activities that harm marine life, undermine coastal communities, and negatively affect human health. Unfortunately, there is no easy, technical fix to reverse these trends, in the WIO or elsewhere. But we do still have nature itself—its vast restorative power and cost-effective climate solutions can help stabilize warming to below 2 °C before 2030.
Investing in nature’s capacity to self-heal—i.e. nature-based solutions—will require a drastic change in how we interact with and depend on nature. But this shift can help us to conserve and restore biodiversity and ecosystems. It can assist in minimizing the financial consequences of climate change, reduce poverty, and create new jobs. It can allow us restore harmony between people and nature and foster a holistic, people-centered response to climate change.
2020 will be a “super year” to evaluate and increase investments in nature-based solutions. Countries committed themselves to achieving Sustainable Development Goal Targets 14.2 (on sustainably managing and protecting marine and coastal ecosystems) and 14.5 (on protecting at least 10% of marine and coastal areas) by 2020. Meanwhile, signatories to the 2015 Paris Agreement are required to submit their next round of nationally-determined contributions, i.e. what efforts they will make between 2020 and 2025 to reduce national emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change.
Additionally, the UN General Assembly proclaimed the coming decade as the “UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration”, a global call to action that will draw together political support, scientific research and financial resources to massively scale up restoration.
2020 therefore represents an opportunity to double down on our commitment to nature-based solutions and “bring nature back from the brink.”
What is the Nairobi Convention doing?
The Nairobi Convention, administered by the UN Environment Programme, is working with governments and partners within the Western Indian Ocean region to support nature-based solutions that will contribute to achievement and implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14, the Paris Agreement, and the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. Examples include:
- Development of Guidelines on ecosystem restoration: The Convention, working with regional experts and governments, have supported the development of two Ecosystem Restoration Guidelines on Mangroves and Seagrasses. The Guidelines, which have been validated by governments in the region, will also be customized for on-the-ground application by local communities in different countries. The Guidelines capture case studies on restoration from both the region and beyond for shared learning.
- Ecosystem Restoration: The Convention is supporting restoration projects across the region focusing on mangroves, seagrass beds and coral reef ecosystems, with local communities playing a key role. The demonstration projects on seagrasses and mangroves will apply the respective Guidelines above. Restoration projects being supported include:
- Coral culture for small scale reef rehabilitation in Mauritius
- Assessment of Blue Carbon Ecosystem (Seagrass) in Mauritius
- Community-based ecological coastal rehabilitation in Seychelles
- Habitat restoration and attraction of seabirds to Ile aux Aigrettes, Mauritius
- Sustainable Seagrass Restoration in Maputo and Inhambane Bays, Mozambique
- Mangrove Restoration and Livelihood Support through Community Participation in Limpopo River Estuary, Mozambique
- Integrated Coastal Zone Management as a tool for conservation of the coastal and marine environment in Malindi –Sabaki Estuary Area, Kenya
- Management plans for key habitats: The Convention is supporting the development and implementation of management plans for key coastal and marine ecosystems across many countries in the region. Successful implementation of these management plans can improve the health of critical habitats and enhance their inherent capacity to provide various ecosystem goods and services, including carbon sequestration, mitigation of the negative effects of sea level rise, maintenance of marine biodiversity, and food security. A number of the projects listed above also include the development and implementation of management plans.
- Constructed wetlands: Untreated wastewater and effluents are causing a decline in water quality in the region, threatening public health, biodiversity, and ecosystems. The Convention is supporting the adoption and promotion of low-cost, “green” technology—i.e. constructed wetlands—for wastewater management through the following demonstration projects:
- Improving Mtwapa Creek water quality by use of Constructed Wetland Wastewater Treatment technology in Shimo la Tewa, Kenya
- Improving Water Quality by use of Constructed Wetland Wastewater Treatment at a Farm in the South of Mahé Island, Seychelles
- Upscaling and Amplification of the Msingini Wastewater Treatment Facility Model in Chake Chake Town, Pemba
The above activities are being implemented under the WIOSAP Project, funded by the Global Environment Facility. For more updates on the implementation of nature-based solutions in the Western Indian Ocean, check www.nairobiconvention.org or email Jared Bosire at