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Seychelles, Cuba seek to further cooperation in conservation, sustainability | 07 September 2019

Seychelles, Cuba seek to further cooperation in conservation, sustainability

PS De Commarmond (second right) speaking at yesterday’s press conference

Seychelles and Cuba have a very long relationship of cooperation, dating back to 1976, in areas such as education, agriculture, sports and health, and soon these areas of cooperation will extend to include the environment and sustainability.

A delegation from Cuba was in the country from September 1-6 to further explore areas of cooperation in environment and sustainability, and met with journalists yesterday just before their flight home.

Hosted by the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change, the delegation comprised the director of The Ocean Foundation for the Caribbean Region Fernando Bretos, Carlos Díaz director of the Cuban Protected Area System and there other experts.

As two archipelagos, Seychelles and Cuba both rely heavily on their coastal and marine resources as sources of income and, similarly, both countries are making various advances in conservation.

These parallels, along with a strong ongoing bilateral relationship, make this exchange the more valuable and punctual.

“Seychelles has started work on a cooperation programme with the Cuban government in collaboration with the Ocean Foundation, a US-based organisation that works in conservation and sustainability,” the principal secretary for environment Alain De Commarmond stated.

He explained that the Seychelles government was first contacted about a year ago by the Ocean Foundation, through the Seychelles’ embassy in New York, about the possibility for cooperation between Seychelles and Cuba in the field of environment and natural resources.

In Seychelles during this week, the Cuban delegates have had the opportunity to learn more about local initiatives in areas such as environmental conservation of protected areas, sustainable and recreational fishing, sustainable tourism and more.

They interacted with the Seychelles National Parks Authority (SNPA), Seychelles Fishing Authority, various non-governmental organisations and other key stakeholders in conservation and sustainable fisheries.

Discussions have also been held with Seychelles Conservation & Climate Adaptation Trust (SeyCCAT), which finances conservation and adaptation initiatives, about the possibility of collaboration between the two countries to find ways to finance conservation in protected areas.

“Also, there have been discussions surrounding sustainable tourism so we had a meeting with the tourism department. Cuba is interested in learning from Seychelles to find sustainable approach to tourism since tourism is very important to both island states,” avowed PS De Commarmond.

Seychelles and Cuba have agreed on a series of potential exchange visits whereby a Seychelles delegation will conduct a similar visit to Cuba next year in which Seychellois from different fields, such as environment and fisheries, will be engaged in the mutual learning experience.

Much like the visit of the Cuban delegation to Seychelles, the Seychelles delegation’s visit to Cuba will be funded by the Harte Charitable Foundation.

PS De Commarmond highlighted that this week’s visit is hoped to translate into a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between Seychelles and Cuba.

“The intention is to establish – through the MoU which will eventually be drafted together with the department of foreign affairs – a similar cooperation programme when it comes to environment conservation and natural resource management, specifically in reference to fisheries.”

Picking up from this, the director general for biodiversity conservation and management division in the department of environment, Marie May Muzungaile added that the MoU would hopefully be signed before the Seychelles delegation sets off for Cuba next year.

Nonetheless, Mrs Muzungaile remarked that the MoU will probably not be finalised by the end of 2019.

“We would probably have a good draft [of the MoU] completed by the end of the year but I am not sure if we will be able to sign before the year ends. We will still have to work with the department of foreign affairs to find the best way and correct persons to sign it, so these are some of the details that we will be ironing out in the next couple of months.”

On his part, Mr Bretos explained that “this exchange came about when we were on a grant project from the Hart Charitable Foundation to help our colleagues in Cuba create a recreational fisheries management plan. But after a meeting with Ambassador Ronny Jumeau in New York in January 2018, we came up with this idea to do an exchange between Cuba and the Seychelles.”

“They are both island states, both culturally diverse but both are facing the same issues when it comes to how to better manage ocean resources and both heavily rely on tourism, and both are located in these trans-boundary areas. At first it seemed odd, but the more we have moved forward with this exchange it has made more and more sense.”

Mr Bretos highlighted that Seychelles has “really set the standards for such a small island country in the blue economy” and in ensuring that the marine resources and the sustainability of the ocean is incorporated in every aspect of decision-making, adding that Seychelles is not only a model for Cuba but for other countries as well.

Similarly he noted that Cuba has also set the standards in the Caribbean, not only in medicine but also in managing its marine resources, and has a very strong scientific community which will very much benefit Seychelles.

On his side, Mr Díaz stated that being in Seychelles the delegation has learned a lot this week, particularly in regards to renewable energy, coral restoration and forestry management, and is looking forward to the visit by the Seychellois delegation to Cuba in order to continue learning together.

Cuba is now offering to accept Seychellois to study environment and conservation in its institutions in the same way as it currently offers training and university courses in medicine and agriculture.

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