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[CANCUN] A learning platform piloted in four countries, including Senegal, is expected to help the West African region boost biodiversity conservation.
The project, dubbed Regions for Biodiversity Learning Platform (RBLP), is an initiative of the NGO Network of Regional Governments for Sustainable Development (nrg4SD).
A six-month pilot phase that took place in Brazil, Canada and Spain was completed in November 2016.
The project’s scale-up was launched at the UN’s 13th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity  (COP13) held in Mexico last month (4-17 December), where governments and private sector delegations gathered to discuss the integration of biodiversity into policies relevant to agriculture, forestry, fisheries and tourism sectors.
The platform initiative seeks to support countries to implement their subnational biodiversity action plans to safeguard nature protection.
Mamadou Ndong Toure, a geographer and manager for the project at the Gossas Department in Senegal, says the main objective is to exchange experiences and best practices in accordance with the national biodiversity action plan. The Senegalese project will expand to other countries in West Africa, to enable the region to properly develop biodiversity conservation strategies.
Toure states that the pilot phase offered knowledge about innovative actions and challenges faced by other governments. The challenges include natural resources degradation, lack of human resources, and limited financial resources. The innovative actions are restoration or conservation, training, and funding research through partnership.
"The benefit of this project for West Africa will be the possibility to share experiences and best practices and to become member of a dynamic network working on actual thematic areas like biodiversity and climate change," Toure tells SciDev.Net. Activities implemented during the pilot phase included the creation of nature reserves, and establishment of an information monitoring system for climate change, he adds.
Rodrigo Messias, a policy officer at nrg4SD who is responsible for the project, says the learning platform is now open for any region to join, adding that participation in the project requires no membership fee but willingness and commitment to share and contribute actively.
"We will also create a website and a database for the regions participating in the project. Besides information about policies, laws and actions taken, participants will also have access to online forums to continue the discussions held during the online meetings," Messias explains.
He notes that the project is currently financed by the nrg4SD, which intends to provide a robust structure and continue its expansion.
Arinze S. Okoli, a scientist at the Centre for Biosafety, a non-commercial foundation in Norway, agrees that the project could help countries in West Africa create strategies to achieve biodiversity conservation.
Okoli adds that the project will build the capacity of scientists on issues of biodiversity conservation discussed at international conferences, to help them make meaningful contributions.
This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk.