Preparatory meeting of the GEMWET project for the conservation of Ghar el Melh lagoon (Tunisia)

International and national  organizations met in Bizerte, Tunisia, on 3-4 October 2018 in the framework of the preparations to implement  the project ”GEMWET- Conservation and sustainable development of coastal wetlands with high ecological value: the case of Ghar el Melh, Tunisia’’.

In attendance were the National Agronomic Institute of Tunisia (INAT), Association “Les Amis des Oiseaux (AAO)”, the Global Water Partnership-Mediterranean (GWP-Med), the IUCN Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation (IUCN-Med), Priority Actions Programme Regional Activity Centre (PAP/RAC), the Research institute for the conservation of Mediterranean wetlands (Tour du Valat), BirdLife International, and WWF North Africa. The main subject of discussions was the protection, management and enhancement of this site, which has been designated as a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.


Preparatory meeting of the GEMWET project for the conservation of Ghar el Melh lagoon (Tunisia). Photo: © WWF North Africa


WWF North Africa moderated the discussion in its capacity as project coordinator. The aim was to define the vision of the project and the ways to collaborate internally and with the wider network of stakeholders at local, national and international levels. The participants exchanged ideas, discussed the different aspects of the project, proposed how they will contribute to the common activities, and agreed on the next steps for implementation.

The Ghar el Melh Lagoon is one of the four Mediterranean coastal wetlands selected by the MAVA Foundation to implement projects to develop best practices that could serve as a reference for the Mediterranean region as a whole.


Lake of Ghar el Melh, Tunisia. Photo: © S. Mzoughi/WWF NA


The project is intended to contribute to the economic, socio-cultural and ecological development of the Ghar El Melh area through the establishment of an integrated management system of available resources and good management practices. This will lead to the vision of building a participatory and integrated local governance system to preserve the precious lagoon of Ghar el Melh.


The workshop

More specifically, the two-day workshop was devoted to:

  • Planning and monitoring processes for the five strategies of the project related to: 1) data collection and assessment studies; 2) capacity building and awareness raising; 3) lobbying, communication and policy advocacy; 4) best practices in water use, agriculture, small scale fisheries and tourism; and 5) contribution to the national Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) and management process led by Coastal Protection and Planning Agency (APAL).
  • Reporting on progress and introductions to project activities, including progress in the socio-economic valuation activities using the TESSA toolkit (Toolkit for Ecosystem Service Site-based Assessment ) by AAO with support from BirdLife International which will help project beneficiaries and decision makers to acquire a quantitative and qualitative assessment of the services offered by the Ghar el Melh lagoon.
  • The management planning process in collaboration with national and local authorities was also presented by PAP/RAC, GWP Med and WWF North Africa as they implement the strategy with APAL. This collaboration will help to establish a local governance model that guarantees a better protection of natural resources and sustainable development using participatory approaches.
  • Project governance and communication tools.
  • The next milestones: finalizing the inception phase with a capitalization of all knowledge available on Ghar el Melh and delimitation of the intervention area. An official project launch is planned for mid-January 2019.


Field visit to the Ghar el Melh Lagoon

The afternoon of the second day was devoted to a field visit to the lagoon of Ghar el Melh. A presentation of the project by WWF and partners was delivered to local authorities, including members of the municipal committee, the delegate of Ghar el Melh, the representatives of the local union of farmers and fishermen as well as cultural, fisheries and education representatives.


Presentation of GEMWET project to the local authorities and stakeholders. Photo: © WWF North Africa


It was a good occasion for a rich exchange of ideas and feedback on the project with the direct beneficiaries. The presentation was followed by a visit to the national wetlands centre in one of the three ancient Ottoman forts of Ghar el Melh.


Visit to the national wetland centre of Ghar el Melh. Photo: © WWF North Africa



Imen Rais, Freshwater Project Officer

WWF North Africa