Seychelles signed a unique deal, a “debt for nature” swap: the Nature Conservancy buys a large part of the country’s national debt in exchange for the creation of 13 new marine protected areas (MPAs).
“We’ve already dispersed over $1.5m,” says Angelique Pouponneau, chief executive of the Seychelles Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust which has invested in several women-led initiatives, including a project that pays poor women to clear seaweed off beaches which will then be turned it into compost for home gardens. “Sustainability is particularly important for a small island nation like the Seychelles which is very dependent on the environment. Fisheries and tourism are the two pillars of our economy.”
The newly created MPAs cover 85% of Seychelles’ coral reefs and 88% of the country’s shallow waters since this is where most nature tourism takes place. So far, Seychelles protects 30% of its national waters. According to conservationists, the swap deal sets a strong precedent that benefits both the economy and the environment.