Gabon is one of the few nations around the world that already have a carbon-negative economy. It is hosting this week the 2022 Africa Climate week.
For the people of Gabon, a sustainable green economy is about improving people’s livelihoods and preserving the biodiversity and the ecosystem services generated by the Congo Basin.
The protection of wetlands of international importance has become a priority together with the creation of 13 national parks which have helped maintain the country’s forest cover and is a significant contribution to global public goods.
Libreville, GABON, September 1, 2022 - A young woman unloads cases of freshly caught fish from her boat onto the dock of the banks of the Ogooué river near the fish market of Lambaréné in Gabon. Marilou Ossawa is the President of a cooperative of smoked fish vendors, and one of the local champions who are helping raise awareness on eco-friendly fishing practices and the importance of preserving the country’s natural capital – from fisheries to forest - to secure the livelihood of its people.
“From the time I was young, I always loved nature. This is why I am engaged in sensitizing people about conservation and good fishing practices,” she says proudly. “Everyone either goes fishing or logging, and we are destroying our forests and killing our fish. The message I would like to share is that it is critical to help people better understand the need to protect our environment. Because every day, people are struggling to make a living. It is our best defense to fight climate change”.
In recent years, Gabon has become a champion in protecting the environment, raising climate issues awareness and setting a vision for a Green and Blue Gabon. For the people of Gabon, a sustainable green economy is about improving people’s livelihoods and preserving the biodiversity and the ecosystem services generated by the Congo Basin.
For Marilou and many community members, adopting sustainable fishing practices and ramping up conservation efforts have had a big impact in the community and transformed the lives of the people in the area. Through the World Bank financed Sustainable Management of Critical Wetlands Ecosystems Project (PAZH) and other initiatives, communities in the region of Lambaréné now understand the importance of preserving the ecosystem services and how it affects their livelihoods and their future.
Fisherfolks can no longer use monofilament nets or other unsustainable techniques to fish. Some areas are restricted to fishing. This has helped improve the fish stock. As a result, people like Marilou and other members of her cooperative have been able to catch bigger fish and increase their income.
“Many people living there are involved in unsustainable fishing activities, and this naturally plays a role in the strong decline in catches. Therefore, every effort had to be made to promote sustainable fishing,” asserts Marilou Ossawa with a large smile.
Thinking Blue and Green to generate wealth for the country
Gabon is endowed with exceptional biodiversity, hosting part of the Congo Basin rainforest, known as the lungs of Africa. Its rich forests and wetlands provide livelihood opportunities for thousands of Gabonese, and fishing is Gabon's main subsistence activity. It is one of the few nations around the world that already have a carbon-negative economy.
The central African country has 88% forest cover which annually absorbs carbon emissions equivalent to a third of France’s annual emissions. The creation of 13 national parks - covering almost 11 % of the territory - has helped maintain the country’s forest cover. Gabon has become a strong advocate and leader in the fight against climate change and is hosting this week the Africa Climate week.
In these efforts, the World Bank is committed to supporting the government develop its blue and green economy by helping them identify new pathways for sustainable and resilient growth through a series of studies.
As people navigate the Ogooué river, the intricate mangrove cover, the sparkle of the papyrus, the depth of the swamp forest boarded by large majestic fromager trees present a breathtaking scenery for the travelers. The rich ecosystem of the region of Bas-Ogooué was placed on the World Heritage List of wetlands of international importance in 2009 as a Ramsar protected site.
For the eco-guard manager Guy Philips Sounguet who manages the Ramsar site, “It is critical to preserve the wetlands, its waters and rich biodiversity including papyrus, that play an important role in carbon sequestration. The change is visible since we’ve started monitoring and we raised awareness. We realized that many practices involved lots of game fish and even fishing methods and techniques that were prohibited”.
This fight against climate change will require continued support from government and private sector to community champions such as Marilou and Guy Philips. This week’s Africa climate week is an opportunity to discuss how the vast blue and green resources of the country can be further leveraged to generate wealth for Gabon.