In July, the inaugural IUCN Africa Protected Area Congress was held in Kigali, Rwanda.  The Congress was a continent-wide gathering of African leaders, indigenous peoples, NGOs, civil society organisations, and youth groups, which aimed to discuss and identify priority actions to strengthen Africa’s protected and conserved areas, while enhancing their role in sustainable development and the wellbeing of Africa’s people. More than 2,000 delegates from 52 African countries and beyond attended. Knowledge, experiences, and perspectives were shared through plenary sessions, expert panels, research presentations, exhibitions, and networking events, and were focused around three thematic areas: Protected Areas, People, and Biodiversity.

The Sea Sense Executive Director attended the Congress and was honoured to be invited to participate and present at a Knowledge Café with colleagues from the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) Region. The theme of the Café was ‘Leveraging governance to improve sustainable marine resource use and conservation outcomes’. These kinds of knowledge sharing events are crucial because community-led conservation efforts will play a key role in meeting the goals of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, particularly the goal to expand protected areas to cover at least 30% of the planet by 2030. Strong governance of marine resources also contributes to other global goals such as improved nutrition, food security, gender equity, and poverty alleviation.

Having worked alongside coastal communities in Tanzania for more than 20 years, we welcomed the opportunity to share some of our experiences, challenges and lessons learnt. The presentations from across the region generated some fruitful discussions and we learned a lot from the other participants. There is still much work to be done, but there is definitely some great momentum behind community-led marine resource management and conservation in the WIO region!