Soqotra Heritage Project: building local capacities for the protection of the unique cultural and natural heritage of Socotra

Soqotra Heritage Project
Published: 21 January 2021
Last edited: 22 February 2021
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Summary

This solution focuses on the Soqotra Heritage Project, a multidisciplinary programme addressing the needs of tangible and intangible cultural heritage on Soqotra, one of the most unique island ecosystems in the world and its unique biodiversity is at the heart of its World Heritage status. Through the establishment of a partnership of local and international institutions and organizations, the project combines multidisciplinary expertise in the documentation and conservation of Soqotra’s heritage which is a key element of identity for Soqotri communities. The project enhances previous projects and programmes which focused on biodiversity conservation, and works on raising awareness and building local capacity for the conservation of tangible and intangible heritage as an element for future sustainable local development.

The project focuses on strengthening community-based approaches to heritage conservation, as well as safeguarding the unique bio-cultural heritage of Soqotra.

Classifications

Region
West Asia, Middle East
Scale of implementation
Local
Ecosystem
Agro-ecosystem
Freshwater ecosystems
Grassland ecosystems
Pool, lake, pond
Rangeland / Pasture
River, stream
Tropical grassland, savanna, shrubland
Theme
Indigenous people
Islands
Local actors
Outreach & communications
Protected area governance
Sustainable financing
Traditional knowledge
World Heritage
Other theme
Gender mainstreaming
sustainable tourism
Challenges
Land and Forest degradation
Tropical cyclones / Typhoons
Conflicting uses / cumulative impacts
Unsustainable harvesting incl. Overfishing
Infrastructure development
Lack of access to long-term funding
Lack of alternative income opportunities
Changes in socio-cultural context
Lack of technical capacity
Lack of public and decision maker’s awareness
Poor monitoring and enforcement
Lack of infrastructure
Poor governance and participation
Social conflict and civil unrest
Lack of food security
Unemployment / poverty
Sustainable development goals
SDG 1 – No poverty
SDG 10 – Reduced inequalities
SDG 12 – Responsible consumption and production
Aichi targets
Target 1: Awareness of biodiversity increased
Target 11: Protected areas
Target 18: Traditional knowledge
Target 19: Sharing information and knowledge

Location

Daira, Hadhramaut, Yemen | The solution is implemented in the Socotra/Soqotra Archipelago located between the Guardafui Channel and the Arabian Sea, is the largest of the four islands in Socotra Archipelago.

Challenges

  • Environmental challenges: change in focus from purely biodiversity conservation to a wider heritage model encompassing links between tangible, intangible and natural heritage and associated knowledge systems;
  • Cultural and social challenges: Soqotri heritage is at risk from external influences; lack of local capacity, governance and awareness of Soqotri heritage; lack of heritage resources available for decision making;
  • Economic challenges: lack of local sustainable development opportunities addressed through further highlighting and discussion on sustainable heritage tourism.

Beneficiaries

The beneficiaries are local communities living on the island - which are also key actors in the implementation of this project - and the scientific community which is benefitting from the archaeological documentation carried out by local communities.

How do the building blocks interact?

The solution focuses on Soqotra Heritage Project, a multidisciplinary partner project involving local, national and international institutions and organizations from the fields of nature conservation and heritage safeguarding. The project focused on switching perspectives in the conservation of the heritage of Soqotra: from biodiversity conservation to a wider interlinked approach addressing both natural and cultural heritage as one interlinked element that is widely interconnected within the life and culture of people that are indigenous to the island and are a key component of the bio-cultural landscape of the Soqotra Archipelago.

The project bases its core activities in the development and enhancement of local capacities as well as in the improvement of information accessibility about the heritage of Soqotra to allow for informed decision-making, also in light of planning for inclusive sustainable tourism activities to be implemented on the island.

The key element for the implementation of this solution is the close cooperation with local communities and the continuous communication and implementation through consultation between all project partners, with the Soqotri community at the forefront of decision making.

Impacts

The Soqotra Heritage Project focuses on increasing the knowledge and raising awareness about cultural heritage of the Soqotra Archipelago.

  • Environmental and cultural impacts: the Soqotra Heritage project tackled both natural and cultural heritage under the same framework, moving the first steps towards the recognition of Soqotra’s cultural heritage and its inclusion in protected areas planning. Additionally, the Soqotra Heritage Database was established through the ARCHES Project.
  • Economic impacts: the project brought heritage tourism into open discussion with local communities and stakeholders; this also encouraged and advertised conservation through diversification.
  • Social and cultural impacts: through the project, local heritage professionals have been trained and local capacities have been developed. At the site level a series of heritage awareness media have been implemented including site interpretation, heritage festivals, heritage “comic strips”, school and stakeholder site visits, online media. The project fostered the use of collaborative theatre and film workshops re-connecting generations with their own heritage.

Story

Oliver Wilkins | Sotories of Change

During the Soqotra Heritage Project, two Yemeni women – Ms. Sheikha Mubarak and Ms. Ahdab Al-Ameri– were trained on video documentation and interview research techniques. They were determined to document the intangible heritage of Soqotra and over the course of six months they collected over 50 hours of footage that were then edited in cooperation with filmmaker Oliver Wilkins in a small film documenting traditional Socotri songs, poetry, stories and traditional crafts.

The film was presented at the Friends of Socotra annual conference where it was seen by a large audience of academics, anthropologists, development professionals and Soqotri people. They captured on film, many unique Soqotri traditions that had been hidden from foreign researchers.
This film and project demonstrate clearly show how important video is in documenting and sharing intangible heritage and the necessity to place local people at the heart of any cultural research.

 

Watch Sheikha and Ahdab’s film at https://vimeo.com/300351147

Contributed by

Dr Alan Forrest Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

Other contributors

Julian Jansen van Rensburg
Freie Universität Berlin
Ismael Salem
ARC-WH Arab Regional Centre for World Heritage
ARC-WH Arab Regional Centre for World Heritage