Organised by the Mission Val de Loire for the 10th anniversary of the UNESCO listing of the Loire Valley World Heritage, this international seminar was an opportunity to capitalise on experiences gained in terms of management, development and preservation of river corridors and remarkable sites, through decentralised cooperation projects developed "river-to-river" between France and Mali (Niger River).
Hosted by the Université François Rabelais in Tours, the seminar brought together partners from the Loire Valley and abroad: institutions (UNESCO, the Centre Region, Mission Val de Loire, Mopti Regional Assembly and Municipality of Mopti), universities (Université de Tours, UCO Angers) and associations (Maison de Loire in Anjou). Representatives of the Indre-et-Loire County Council, the Loire-Anjou-Touraine Regional Natural Park, the Maison de la Loire of Indre-et-Loire, Centraider and towns and villages in the Loire Valley also assisted.
The town in the river corridor
The presentation of the cases of the towns of Mopti (river port) and Djenné (listed as a World Heritage) broached the challenges specific to towns on riverbanks: remarkable places due to their location, architecture and heritage, but a layout and urban development restricted by their very location – where the environmental questions remain worrying and improving drainage is a daily challenge.
Located at a crossroads, the portside town of Mopti is a driving force for the region's economy and also boasts proven tourist potential (quality of life, local activities, heritage) well worth enhancing while being mindful of the specific progressive contexts of this economic sector: volatile and versatile, tourism is subject to the ups and downs of the region's sociopolitical contexts and regional competition.
The projects of the town of Djenné, in partnership with the initiatives taken through international projects – in which the Mission Val de Loire is involved ("Niger-Loire governance and culture") – have put forward solutions for evacuating water and treating waste. However, sustaining such initiatives over the long-term depends on local resources (human and financial): a major constraint highlighted by the stakeholders.
One of the aspects for the social consideration of the environment – especially in a river corridor – involves raising awareness and disseminating knowledge among all stakeholders in the region. Structures have been erected in both France and Mali, bearing these dimensions specific to the assimilation of environmental values and heritage by the populations living in the region.
From the Maison de Loire to the Maison du Delta
The Maison de Loire, an association, seeks to make the river accessible to everyone through training and awareness-raising schemes for the general public focusing on knowledge and transmission of knowledge and know-how concerning the natural and cultural heritage of the Loire: organisation of conferences, heritage education (for youngsters), exhibitions and the Great Rivers Biennials.
The Maison du Delta (project sponsored by the cooperation of the Centre Region with the Mopti Regional Assembly) also aspires to be an interpretation centre for the river and its change over time like the Maison de Loire, but it is also an actual operator – initiating projects to preserve the environment and protect heritage at the level of the Inner Niger Delta.
Their missions are therefore markedly different and, in parallel, reflect the differences between uses made of the Loire and those made of the Niger. Although the Loire is no longer used, it is still a changing landscape, a living cultural one, while the Niger continues to be a resource in its own right for all the populations living on its banks and is still used intensively (fishing, communication means, water resource, etc.).
Continuing education and research
Taking the example of the Pantanal in Brazil, emphasis was placed on research on the bio-indicators of services provided by the ecosystems of wetlands and the correlation between the degradation of biodiversity and that of living conditions for humans.
The specific aspects of training abroad were described through two options of the DIDL Master developed by the University of Bamako with the support of the "Niger-Loire: governance and culture" project: environmental management of aquatic and river environments, and management of heritage and development. The close attention paid when these options were implemented meant they could be adapted to the frameworks of local authorities in Mali.
A key technical and geographical correlation was described between the endangering of biodiversity and cultural diversity.
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L’équipe de la Mission Val de Loire.