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Fantastic 2016 World Oceans Day Celebrations in Hann, Senegal

Well-planned by the Mundus maris Club Senegal together with several civil society partners in Hann and beyond, three schools, several sports and cultural associations and numerous elders were mobilised for the programme in four parts to make World Oceans Day celebrations in Hann a noteworthy event. As the Day falls straight into the Ramadan period, the ocean soccer tournament and the wrestling tournament that were so popular last year was postponed to July.

Conversely, the Khadim, Bara Guèye, Mame Diégane schools contributing to the celebrations organised workshops beforehand to show their artistic production in a junior exhibition.

Under the leadership of artist and comedian Mr. Bina Diarra Diop the kids from the participating schools had thus produced two big collage works to the motto "Healthy Ocean, Healthy Planet" with particular emphasis on the pollution of the local Bay of Hann. But this effort would not have yielded the results had it not been for the strong support of directors and teachers of the schools concerned, namely Magath Diop and Abdoulaye Diouf of Khadim School, Ms Fatou Teuw, Director of Bara Guèye School A, and Mr. Yacinthe Sarr, Director of School B as well as Messrs. Aimé Sarr and Joseph Sarr of Mame Ndiégane School.

The celebrations on 8 June started out with a beach cleaning effort along Hann Bay in the morning. But because it was difficult to get utensils from the municipality the clean-up effort was only completed the next day.

This year, women outnumbered the men thanks to the collaboration with the Association for the Development and the Education of youngsters (Association pour le Développement et l'Education des Jeunes (ADEJ)) and particularly Babacar Diop, who is one of the persons in charge.

The Bay is already since decades suffering from serious pollution from Dakar's untreated industrial discharges and poor municipal waste management. But little has been done to bring some scientific and technological understanding of pollution issues to the attention of the affected population around the Bay, let alone take effective action to address its root causes.

This was the principal reason, why Mundus maris offered a conference and debate on the subject in the premises of the Local Artisanal Fisheries Committee (CLPA by its French acronym) in the afternoon hours.

During the junior exhibit, artist Bina Diop also explained the Mundus maris quiz and encouraged the pupils to answer the questions as best they could.

The info sheet about key results of latest marine research was not only a good general resource, but of practical help in answering the quiz. 

While all this was going on, helpers prepared the venue of the conference with debate.

Aliou Sall started out with a powerpoint supported talk to introduce the key messages, followed by a lively debate.

In the occasion, the leaders of the fishing community engaged strongly in the debate about what pollution did to the Bay and its ecosystem and what that meant to the already pressing challenges to small-scale fisheries in Hann.

Among the leaders was Ibrahima Niang, who combines responsibilities as chief of the landing place, municipal adviser and head of the fisheries commission in Hann Bel Air.

Pupils of the Bara Guèye, Mame Diégane et Khadim schools were in attendance together with leaders of the fishing community.  

The artistic production of the pupils was displayed at the meeting place.

The debate going on there was interrupted for the occasion and the kids were given the opportunity to explain the meaning and intentions of their work. This was quite an innovation because traditionally, kids (boys and girls) of that age were not expected or even supposed to provide explanations to adults. But the expo offered a wonderful opportunity for them to catch the eye of the elders and share what they had learnt during the workshops and expressed in their artistic works. That was clearly a highlight, not only for the pupils.

Mr Niang actually took the floor to acknowledge appreciation for this initiative and Mr. Bina Diop's work. He went further suggesting that he was not only going to debrief the municipal council about the event, but also suggested that the primary schools in the municipality should be involved in the defence of the marine ecosystem.

This rich programme provided excellent opportunities to exchange about ocean issues from different perspectives and across all age groups. 

The conference was concluded with a short assessment of its utility.

The comments of the audience revealed that they had for the first time got exposure to these scientific research results in such an understandable manner. They said they realised that some of the pollution effects not necessarily visible by eyesight could be even more dangerous than the litter and macroscopic particles discharged into the Bay. In particular they were concerned about the formation of dead zones as a result of eutrophication (over-fertilisation) of the waters and other changes in the ecosystem.

The participants proposed that such conferences be repeated in the CLPA premises that are easily accessible to them. They were keen to learn more on topics of similarly great importance, such as the resource situation in Senegal. They suggested that the CLPA premises be equipped with a computer and a projector so as to see more didactical films which they find more intuitive than slides with graphs and French text, which not all of them understand.

Participants of all ages were united in the ardent desire for a wider clean-up of Hann Bay, resilient and sustainable artisanal fisheries and good futures for the coming generations.

What a memorable day. It should reverberate throughout the year and entice at least improvements within the immediate reach of the participants themselves.