Launch of the GEMWET Project

The celebration of World Wetlands Day (WWD) on February 13th, 2019, marked the launch of GEMWET, a MAVA foundation funded project aiming to the conservation and sustainable development of high ecological value of the lagoon of Ghar El Melh in the Governorate of Bizerte in the North of Tunisia.

The celebration was organized in the Cultural Centre of Ghar El Melh by the project partners in collaboration with the General Department of Foresty (DGF) and the Agency for Coastal Protection and Development (APAL) and under the auspices of the Governor of Bizerte.

GEMWET is implemented by a consortium of national and regional partner organizations namely WWF North Africa, Global Water Partnership Mediterranean (GWP-Med), BirdLife Europe, Association Amis des Oiseaux (AAO), , Priority Actions Programme/ Regional Activity Center (PAP / RAC), National Agronomic Institute of Tunis (INAT), Tour du Valat (TdV), International Union for the Conservation of Nature in the Mediterranean (IUCN Med).

The overall objective of the project is to contribute to the economic, socio-cultural and ecological development of Ghar El Melh area through the establishment of an integrated management system of available resources, the engagement of stakeholders in a participatory planning and governance process and the promotion of good practices. This will lead to preserve Ghar El Melh lagoon and limit its deterioration and the reduction of the existent biodiversity.

The WWD celebration event gathered about sixty key partners involved on the managment of Ghar El Melh lagood and its basin including public national, regional and local authorities, NGOs, Civil society and medias.

The opening session of the event offered the opportunity to focus on the situation of the wetlands in Tunisia in general and in Ghar El Melh in particular, the benefits they offer and the pressures they face as well as the measures taken by the government to address these pressures. The Ministry of Agriculture, Hydraulic Resources and Fisheries is responsible of the application of regional and international conventions related to the wetlands such as the Ramsar Convention. It was recalled that Tunisia lists 41 sites on it wetlands of international importance list (Ramsar Sites) and two sites will soon be added to the list.

An urgent call for joint action was stated by the participants against the deterioration of the natural resources in the area towards the preservation of the natural and the archaeological heritage of the city of Ghar El Melh and the sustainable exploitation of its natural resources and the benefits they offers through the adoption of an integrated management approach.

The progress of the National Wetland Strategy and of the National Strategy for Integrated Coastal Zone Management in Tunisia were presented focusing on the fact that the project will align with these two processes. Thereafter, GEMWET coordinator presented the project and its components. The discussion focused mainly on the increased degradation of tunisian wetlands and the urgency of action.

In the framework of the GEMWET project, GWP-Med will contribute to the implementation of two major components of the project, namely sustainable agriculture and youth. In relation to sustainable agriculture, the project intervention will focus on promoting smart agriculture and innovative technologies that contribute to irrigation and fertilisation optimization. To this end, the project activities include pilot experiments supported by capacity building activities and study tours.

Building on the fact that youth are more likely to adhere to the transformation of agriculture, the change of farming pathways and the adoption of sustainable practices, GWP-Med will work on their empowerment, the enhancement of their knowledge and the promotion of youth entrepreneurship and green jobs that can that can contribute to reduce pressure on wetlands and limit youth migration.

First Steeting Committee of the GEMWET Project

After the successful launching of the project in the morning, the Steering Committee (SC) of the project held its first meeting in the afternoon.

As the project seeks to establish synergies with all ongoing projects and initiatives in the region and aims to ensure an integrated approach toward sustainable development in the coastal area  of Ghar el Melh that is consistent with the local priorities and the  national policies, the SC discussed the strategic cooperation framework and the operational procedures that will facilitate collaboration between project partners and local actors in areas of common interest.

The Steering Committee is composed by the representatives of local authorities (Municipality of Ghar El Melh, Regional Commissariat for Agricultural Development of Bizerta, Regional Development Direction, Sanitation Office of Bizerte, Regional Directions of education and Culture, Employment Office), key ministries and institutions under supervision (General Direction of Forests, Coastal Protection and Development Agency, National Agency for Environmental Protection, General Direction of Water Resources, Direction of Equipment, National Agency for Waste Management, Ministry of Tourism) associations and user groups (Local Union of Agriculture and Fisheries) universities and research institutes (National Institute of Science and Technology of the Sea, Faculty of Sciences of Bizerte, School of Ghar El Melh), economic operators, Cicil society (local association), NGOs (PNUD). This Committee will remain open to other actors, including observers to promote possible synergies.

The Steering Committee will be responsible for guiding the projects partners to ensure the successful implementation of GEMWET project. In addition, this Committee will function as a platform / forum that will allow all partners to align their management projects to encourage transparent and effective governance and to facilitate the implementation of the project’s activities.

The main objective of the first SC meeting was to establish a first contact with the SC members, to present them in more detail the project’s axes and activities and to discuss their expectations from the project and its partners.

The SC members and the Project’s partners started by dressing a list of priority actions to be undertaken for Ghar El Melh and how the project will respond to them.

As a next step, and as it was agreed to have the SC meetings each 6 months, the report of the meeting will be shared with the members as well as an work plan for the coming 6 months.

Photo: Delegates at the launch event.