The First International Conference on African & Arabian Geoparks
“Aspiring Geoparks in Africa and Arab world”
El Jadida, Morocco, 20-28 November 2011
The African Association of Women in Geosciences (AAWG) created the African Geoparks Network (AGN) during the preparatory meeting of its fifth conference entitled “Women and Geosciences for Peace” held in Abidjan, Ivory Coast in May 2009. It is now considered as a project of the association. The AGN aims to i) Identify and make an inventory of the geological sites of outstanding value in Africa; ii) Promote and increase the awareness among policy makers and the general public in Africa, particularly local communities about the necessity of the protection and the valorization of African geological heritage through the creation of geoparks for a sustainable local development, iii) Build the capacity of local population in the field of geoheritage and geoconservation through a strong networking and the organization of conferences, seminars, symposia, training courses and workshops.
First International Conference on African and Arabian Geoparks (FICAAG)
In order to meet the main objectives for which the AGN was created, the African Association of Women in Geosciences (AAWG) and the African Geoparks Network (AGN) organized, in collaboration with UNESCO Cairo Office, the FICAAG entitled “Aspiring geoparks in Africa and Arab World”. This conference was held at Chouaib Doukkali University-Faculty of Sciences (El Jadida, Morocco) from the 20th to 28th November 2011. The main targets of the conference are the capacity building of participants interested in geoheritage, geoconservation, geotourism and geoparks in order to allow them to promote the concept in their respective countries. The conference offered also an opportunity for participants coming from different fields (academicians, engineers, managers, medias, students…etc.) to discuss, exchange experiences and create new partnership. This conference received 87 abstracts representing 39 countries and was attended by 100 delegates representing 31 countries from the five continents. Many international organizations were represented during the conference: UNESCO, GGN, EGN, Chinese Geoparks Network, GSAf, Geological Society of Romania, Royal Society of Western Australia, USGS, CoGE-IUGS, Geoheritage Task Group-IUGS, YES Network, Earth Science Matters Foundation…etc.
The opening Ceremony which took place at the conference room of the National School of trade and management of El Jadida (ENCG) was attended by 300 participants. The conference started by a workshop on geoconservation and geoparks. The two day technical program included oral presentations, poster sessions, roundtables and business meetings. The conference ended by a field trip devoted to the High Atlas and Anti-Atlas mountains of Morocco.
A pre-conference short course was organized on the 20th November 2011 and was attended by 38 delegates from 19 countries. The course which was conducted by Prof José Brilha from Minho University (Portugal) aimed to improve the understanding of Geodiversity: concept, value and threats; Geological heritage: concept, type and uses; Geoconservation: management of geological heritage, inventory, assessment, valuing, monitoring, strategies; and Geoparks: basic concept, social impacts, consideration, UNESCO’s role.
The scientific symposia were organized on the 20th and 21st November 2011. They were divided into seven sessions with 48 oral presentations and 21 posters. The first session was dedicated to conferences on history of geoheritage, Geoparks-Geotourism, Economic benefits of geoparks, museums and activities in Geoparks, National Parks and other types of protected areas. The second session focused on aspiring geoparks in different regions of Maghreb. The third session was dedicated to some examples of conservation and geoparks in Europe and in China. The fourth, the fifth and the sixth sessions were dedicated to the geoheritage, aspiring Geoparks, environment, climate change in sub-Saharian and southern Africa, in the Arab World, in Australia and in USA. The last session was dedicated to the UNESCO Earth Sciences Education Initiative in Africa, the Geoparks and Geosciences Education and to the geoparks after the International Year of Planet Earth.
The presentations reflect the fantastic geological, geomorphological, ecological, cultural and traditional diversity of Africa that deserve to be preserved, valorized and presented to the general public in a less academic and more widely accessible way in order to make them a lever for local socio-economical sustainable development of the continent.
Two business meetings took place during that conference. 1/ The first meeting dedicated to the African Geoparks Network and its future took place on the 20th November 2011 and was attended by 35 participants representing AAWG, AGN and other international organizations. During that meeting, Prof Ezzoura Errami presented the history of the creation, challenges and perspectives of the AGN. This was followed by the introduction of the AGN bureau members which are Prof Ezzoura ERRAMI (Morocco) - coordinator; Dr. Lala Andrianaivo (Madagascar) - secretary general and Dr. Marcelle Gauly (Ivory Coast) - treasurer. The AGN representative of many African and Arabian countries confirmed their will to serve (the complete list will be available on the AGN website). After a long discussion, it was decided that the AGN will be a project of AAWG and will serve Africa and the Arab World. It was also decided that the second conference on African and Arabian geoparks will be held in 3 years. The future venue will be decided in one year time in the country that will do much work concerning the promotion and the creation of geoparks. Waiting for the next conference, many workshops will be organized in many African and Arabian countries in order to promote the concept and build the capacity of local population. Three countries (Tunisia, Senegal and Yemen) proposed their candidature to host the next workshops. The dates will be provided latter. 2/ A closing meeting was dedicated to the African Association of Women in Geosciences and its future.
Two roundtables were organized during that conference. The first one was dedicated to the “Role of women and youth in conservation of natural heritage” and it was moderated and reported jointly by AAWG senior members and young scientists from YES Network. The second roundtable was dedicated to UNESCO and IUGS-COGE initiatives on geo-education in Africa.
Post-conference field trip
The excursions entitled “High Atlas and Anti-Atlas mountains of Morocco: Aspiring geoparks” took place from the 23-28 November 2011. This part of the event was very important as it provided opportunities for 42 delegates from 16 countries to examine various aspects of Moroccan geology, culture, tradition, music…etc. It was also an opportunity to discuss on site the importance of different geosites in the High-Atlas and the Anti-Atlas Mountains as aspiring geoparks.
A reception and a gala dinner were organized on the 20th and the 21th November 2011 in the honor of the delegates. The reception was organized in the Portuguese City of Mazagan (El Jadida) which is a UNESCO World Heritage. The gala dinner, was organized following the Moroccan tradition (food, music and dance). These two cultural events give more human dimension to the conference and allow the participants to have an introduction the rich Moroccan culture.
This FICAAG helped to build the capacity of the participants, to share experiences, to promote the geoparks concept for society. The conference also plays a crucial role in stimulating scientific collaboration and networking within African and Arabian countries and the international community involved in geoparks and geoconservation. The main outcomes of the conference are 1) “El Jadida Declaration”; 2) the organization of workshops in order to continue to promote the geopark concept and build the capacity of local population and 3) Special publications will be dedicated to the papers presented during the conference.
El Jadida Declaration
In reference to the article from New Partnership for the Development in Africa (NEPAD 2011) “The archaeological and palaeontological sites which contain proof of Earth evolution, of life and human species, the natural habitats which include a large variety of fauna and flora and the free inhabited areas, are a characteristic of the continent” (Ch.2, art.III).
We, participants to the First International Conference on African and Arabian Geoparks coming from 15 African countries, 4 Middle East countries and international experts (Europe, China, Australia and USA) declare that:
-Africa, cradle of humanity, is characterized by large geo and biodiversity;
-The human history of Africa and its geological history are intimately linked;
-The conservation of the geological heritage, the natural heritage, the tangible and intangible cultural heritage is, today, an unavoidable objective for all African countries.
We are more than determined to implement the following recommendations:
- Promote the development of Geoparks in Africa under the auspices of the African Geoparks Network Project developed by the African Association of Women in Geosciences ;
- Elaborate, in a short term, a strategy and a methodology for the development of the Geoparks in Africa focused on a priority of their implementation on the areas with higher poverty level ;
We strongly suggest to UNESCO to reinforce the geoparks initiative and to develop a strong information and awareness plan to promote the geoparks for all African and Arabian societies.
El Jadida, Morocco, the 22nd November 2011.
UNESCO (main sponsor through their Cairo and Nairobi offices and Paris headquarter), IUGS, PETROCI Holding, Oromin Joint Venture Group, CNRST, French Embassy, AMST, and El Jadida Culture Direction deserve a great deal of credit and thanks for their support. We would like also to thank Prof. José Brilha, the GGN, the scientific committee, the organizing committee, members of research group “Géodynamique, Géo-éducation et Patrimoine Géologique, EGGPG”, the administrative staff of Chouaib Doukkali University and the Geology Department colleagues are gratefully acknowledged for their support and their assistance during the preparation of this special event. Special thanks go to the Moroccan Embassies which facilitated the obtainment of Visa for some participants from Africa and Arab World.
AGN Coordinator and chairwomen of the Conference
Faculté des Sciences, Département de Géologie, 24000, El Jadida (Maroc).
AGN Secretary General
Université d’Antananarivo, Ecole Supérieure Polytechnique,
Faculté des Sciences, Département de Géologie, 24000, El Jadida (Maroc).
PETROCI Holding, Abidjan, Ivory Coast