Remarks on the 1st International Conference on African and Arabian Geoparks ‘Aspiring Geoparks in Africa and the Arab World’ (El Jadida, Morocco, 20-28 November 2011)

1st Conference African Arbian Geoparks
El Jadida, from left to right: Ezzoura Errami, Morocco, IUGS, AAWG, AGN; N’Zalassé Bleoue, AAWG, AGN, Ivory Coast; Aberra Mogessie, President Geological Society of Africa, Austria, Ethiopia; Felix Toteu, UNESCO Office Nairobi.

A wonderful small, but efficient conference was recently held in Morocco co-organised by the ‘African Association of Women in Geosciences’ (AAWG) and the growing ‘African Geoparks Network’ (AGN) under the leadership of IUGS’ councillor Prof. Ezzoura Errami, University of El Jadida. Some 100 geoscientists from 34 countries – coming from all continents including Australia, America, Asia, Europe and mainly Africa – presented scientifically sound and exciting case studies of existing or planned Geoparks. All participants contributed to the conference’s key objectives: Promotion of Earth Sciences through Geoparks and activities related to Geoheritage, Geoeducation and Geotourism. A colorful ’bunch of flower’ under the subtitle ‘Aspiring Geoparks in Africa and the Arab World’ enriched the booming Geoparks initiative of UNESCO.

At a business meeting of the AAWG, AGN and representatives of the envisaged ‘Arabian Geoparks Network’ the participants agreed that the African Association of Women in Geosciences should serve as umbrella organisation for relevant Geopark activities also in the Arab region.

From left to right: Catherine Casolani, UK; Ole Sipitiek J., Kenya; Aberra Mogessie, GSAf, Austria, Ethiopia; Wolfgang Eder, Earth Science Matters, Germany; Jesús Martínez Frías, IUGS Commission on Geoeducation, Spain.

‘Earth Science Matter’ was represented during the conference by its chairman, Wolfgang Eder. He provided information on Earth Science Matters’ background, the general strategy, and focused on the potential cooperation with IUGS, UNESCO and all partners of the ‘Global Geoparks Network’ in the fields of Geoparks, Geoeducation and Geoheritage publications. The proposal of setting up a ‘Geoparks fund’ in cooperation with public-private-partners was appreciated, but not yet deeply discussed. Practical steps have been undertaken by the Moroccan colleagues in approaching a Phosphate Company as potential sponsor for a Geopark East of El Jadida. UNESCO was represented by Felix Toteu (Nairobi Office) The Global Geoparks Network (‘assisted’ by UNESCO) was represented by Guy Martini; a cooperation between continental Geopark-Networks (e.g. in Latin- America) and future ‘Earth Science Matters’ Regional Centers might be envisaged. The Geoparks potential in the USA was highlighted by Tom Casadevall (US Geologial Survey); he is in partnership with Wesley Hill (GSA, USA) the driving Geopark ‘force’ in the US and expressed his interest in and support for Earth Science Matters, too. IUGS representative and chair-women of the AAWG, Ezzoura Errami, was the main and fantastic organiser of the Conference; she will provide her help with respect to the establishment of a Moroccan Earth Science Matters National Committee.

Extremely positive was the contact to Jesús Martinéz Frías (Centro de Astrobiologia, Madrid, Chairman of IUGS’ Commission of Geoeducation, COGEO. He was very supportive to Earth Science Matters and might act together with Marco Lamolda (IGCP Spain) as focal point for a Spanish Earth Science Matters National Committee.

Also very positive and promising was the discussion with Aberra Mogessie, President of the Geological Society of Africa – he is prepared to provide GSAf’s full support (in kind !) to Earth Science Matters. A special partnership agreement between GSAf and the Foundation will be established.

From left to right: José Brilha, EGN, Editor of the Springer Journal ‘Geoheritage, Portugal; Mohammed Al-Haifi, Yemen; Aberra Mogessie, GSAf, Austria, Ethiopia; Ole Sipitiek J., Kenya; Abdel Fatah Tharwat, Egypt; Wang M., China; Wolfgang Eder, Earth Science Matters, Germany; M. Abaker Abdalla, Sudan; Claudia Eckhardt, EGN, Germany; Andrianaivo Lala, Madagascar.