Fondation des Savanes Ouest Africaines (FSOA) has successfully hosted the 9th CAFÉ General Assembly in the historical city of Ouidah, Bénin from 2-6 September, 2019.

The colourful event was conducted under the theme of “Financial Markets and Portfolio Management for Environmental Funds.”

The Assembly was officially opened by the Bénin Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development, Mr. José Tonato, at Casa Del Papa Hotel in Ouidah. It brought together participants from different African countries, North America, Brazil and France.

About Ouidah

Ouidah City was the only seaport of the country until 1908. It is located 40 km from Cotonou and it is on the main road to Togo. Ouidah is of great interest in the cultural and historical value of the country. It is a place replete with symbolic and important history to the black African race. In addition to Ouidah’s history museum, the city is home to several cultural sites that are still visible: Voodoo Centre, the Snake Village, a park Known as the Sacred Forest and the Slave Route that led to the “Point of NO Return” – a memorial to slavery at the beach of Ouidah, one of the large slave-trade ports in Africa, which served as the main departure point for those sold into slavery between the 15th and 19th centuries.

The Workshop

As per tradition, within the General Assembly there was a 3-day capacity building workshop which centred on the aforementioned theme and was facilitated by FinAfrique of Cameroon.

Through the workshop, participants were equipped with practical knowledge in financial markets and portfolio management specifically for environmental funds in order to ensure and secure financial sustainability in promotion of conservation, environmental management and sustainable development across the continent.

The workshop was purposely designed to foster close cooperation of the Environmental Funds in order to share experiences and knowledge in designing, implementing and monitoring investments in order to better understand, through practical cases, the different risks associated with portfolio management and the importance of diversification and evolution for continuous performance improvement.

A visit to Ganvié Lake Village

On Friday the 5th September, participants had a field visit to Ganvie Lake Village which is about a 4-hour journey from the capital Cotonou.

The Lake Village, also known as “the Venice of Africa,” stands on stilts in the middle of Lake Nokoué, north of Cotonou, and is today the most important riparian city in West Africa. It has a population of around 30,000 people who rely mainly on fishing. Ganvié remains the largest lake village in Africa and is often popular with tourists.

During the visit, which was by pirogue, participants observed the lagoon’s natural working, the problem of invasive plants, the water birds associated to this habitat, the extremely original traditional fishing techniques, and the lifestyle of the inhabitants in this very special environment.

Historically, a small group of people outside of what is now Cotonou, Bénin, took advantage of a different set of circumstances to evade capture by the Portuguese. At the time, the powerful West-African Fon tribe was hunting and selling other native tribesman to the Portuguese. While there were few physical impediments protecting the ancestors of today’s Ganvié village from outside attack, Fon religious practice forbade their raiders from advancing on any peoples dwelling on water, laying the groundwork for the Ganvié Lake Village.

Farewell from RedLAC President

Also present at the Assembly was Ms. Rosa Montanez, the current President of the Latin American and Caribbean Network of Environmental Funds (RedLAC).

Montanez is serving her final year of her 4-year term as President of RedLAC, a network which has been very supportive of CAFÉ in its establishment.

During her term, CAFÉ and RedLAC successfully implemented a joint project called Project K – Knowledge for Action, from June 2015 to December 2018. The aim of Project K was to enhance global conservation through peer-to-peer exchanges and knowledge management among members of CAFÉ and RedLAC.

The project got its financial support from three donors namely, the French Facility for Global Environment (FFEM), Mava Foundation, and the Global Environmental Fund (GEF). Technical support of the project was from the Brazilian Biodiversity Fund (FUNBIO), which is a member of RedLAC.

Moving forward

CAFÉ’s 2020 (10th) General Assembly is scheduled to take place in Mozambique and will be hosted by the Mozambique Biodiversity Fund (BIOFUND).

Tonato making his opening remarks

FinAfrique facilitating during the capacity building workshop

FFEM’s Constance Corbier making her remarks

FSOA’s Executive Director, Mr. Alfred Koffi Allogninouma, making his opening remarks

From left to right: Montanez (RedLAC President), Karen  Price (CAFE President), and Benin government official on a symbolic opening of the Assembly

Participants on the way to Ganvié Lake Village by Pirogue

A taste of Ganvié