The University of Seychelles is working towards including negotiation modules using the Mutual Gains Approach within their Governance and Stakeholder Engagement Course. This initiative is being led by three graduates of the Biodiversity and Protected Areas Management (BIOPAMA) Programme’s Negotiation Skills Training of Trainers held in February 2015, which equipped participants with skills to train and assist protected area practitioners in negotiation skills using the Mutual Gains Approach.
Dr Ashton James Berry, Head of Programme, and Mrs Kelly Hoareau, a Project Director, both from the University of Seychelles’ Department of Environmental Science and Ms Sylvanna Antha from the Seychelles National Parks are three graduates from BIOPAMA’s Negotiation Skills training. They acknowledge the value addition of the training they received in equipping protected area practitioners with “soft skills” and have identified a role for the University of Seychelles to provide training through the incorporation of Mutual Gains Approach in the curriculum. These exciting developments are in line with the objectives of BIOPAMA’s capacity development programme for Eastern and Southern Africa and aim at equipping higher education institutions in the region to teach negotiation skills for stakeholder engagement to protected area managers, students and related careers.
The University of Seychelles, informally known as “UniSey”, is an education institution established only recently in September 2009 and fast growing into a reputable knowledge centre within the Indian Ocean Region. Amongst others, the University enables its students to gain an International perspective by their involvement in a range of programmes, such the UNEP Ecosystem-based Adaptation Mangrove Restoration Project. Dr Berry is incorporating this research into the Environmental Science Programme curriculum, where stipends will be available for students to contribute to long-term research projects. UniSey is also encouraging new research activities in fields such as education and languages, culture and environmental science. Their Environmental Science Department currently offers a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science and is constantly looking to grow and develop its offering.
“We do not currently offer specific degree programmes for protected areas managers, but there is a demand for short courses to assist with professional development of managers and park rangers who are keen to formalize their practical experience with formal qualifications,” said Mrs Kelly Hoareau, the Project Director for the Blue Economy Research Institute at the University of Seychelles.
Dr Ashton Berry, the Head of Programme: Environmental Science said that his Department is in the process of incorporating the Mutual Gains Approach modules into their Governance and Community Engagement short course’s curriculum. He also indicated that the Department is in the process of developing a Student Guide and lecturing notes on the Mutual Gains Approach. The short courses that are being developed will also be offered to external students from Government, industry and NGOs and these may be on offer by mid 2016. Plans are underway to develop a series of 5 day workshops incorporating the Mutual Gains Approach in protected area conflict resolution.
The institution is also currently developing a research based Master degree programme in Environmental Science that will focus on marine science, integrated coastal zone management, ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. This initiative will be strongly aligned to blue economy research initiatives. “Central to all these aspirations will be the inclusion of social and ecological parameters and a need to negotiate outcomes that result in a win for all stakeholders”, said Mrs Hoareau.
The BIOPAMA Programme has pledged to provide the necessary support to the University of Seychelles as they develop the protected areas training programmes. Ms Christine Mentzel, the BIOPAMA Programme Coordinator for Eastern and Southern Africa, expressed willingness of her programme to provide guidance during the development of the short courses as well as provide some examples of course materials.