Soqotra’s nature is unique and irreplaceable, and it is our collective responsibility to safeguard it.Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP & former Director General of IUCN
Socotra in Sicilia is an initiative aimed at spreading knowledge and triggering conservation and sustainable development actions for the beautiful Socotra archipelago (Republic of Yemen), a Man and Biosphere reserve (2003), a Natural UNESCO World Heritage site (2008) and a Biodiversity Hotspot, located in the Indian Ocean, East of the Horn of Africa.
Socotra in Sicilia will host the 18th International Conference and Annual General Meeting of the Friends of Socotra (FoS), together with events celebrating Yemeni culture and nature, with focus on Socotra: photos exhibition, screenings, round tables, gastronomy, handicraft, music.
All events will take place in Palermo, Sicily (FoS Conference: September 27th – 28th, Side events: September 27th – October 6th, 2019).
Socotra, the pearl of Yemen, is globally known for its unique biodiversity and language, its characteristic beautiful dragon blood trees and amazing species-rich coral reefs. However, as is the case for all islands in the world, Socotra faces severe challenges that are widely understood to accelerate the loss of natural and cultural heritage. The erosion of cultural heritage leads to a direct loss of identity and connectivity to the place, while the loss of natural heritage causes damage to fragile ecosystems of which the destruction will affect human health and resource availability in the future. The current environmental challenges on Socotra include:
- climate change impacting the environment and people caused by cyclones and drought;
- overgrazing and wood collection which lead to the loss of vegetation and fertile soil, overfishing which leads to irreversible changes in the marine environment and threatens future livelihoods of local fishermen;
- exotic species that may cause a loss of biodiversity and even affect human health, and finally;
- rapid unsustainable developments without environmental consideration that will change the Socotra landscape forever.
Socotra is beautiful, yes, but its nature and culture are in danger. The beautiful dragon blood trees we see, are actually dying, and there are nearly no young trees on the island. The coral reefs are strongly affected by the cyclone impacts and a growing international market for local fish. Much of what we observe as common today on the island, may disappear in just a few generations if there is no involvement and help of local communities.
Local Socotri and international experts are truly concerned, which is why a yearly event by a non-governmental organisation (FoS) about Socotra, bringing both together, is important. Such events help to exchange thoughts and ideas among a wide group of people, to raise awareness on the global importance and vulnerability of the islands and their people, and the challenges the local culture and nature face.