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Can participatory approaches strengthen the monitoring of cyanobacterial blooms in developing countries ? Results from a pilot study conducted in the Lagoon Aghien (Ivory Coast)

Our pilot study have shown that it was possible in Africa to mobilize the populations living around a body of water to monitor the quality of its water, in particular the cyanobacteria blooms, using a smartphone application. In addition to the data collected which complements that of institutional monitoring, this approach has also made it possible to sensitize local populations to issues relating to the degradation of water quality and the protection of this resource.

Key-words : West Africa, Ivory Coast, cyanobacteria, monitoring, participatory approach

INRAE ​​press release

Monitoring of cyanobacteria in freshwater ecosystems is a complex task, which is time consuming and expensive due to the chaotic population dynamics and highly heterogeneous distribution of cyanobacteria populations in water bodies. The financial cost constitutes a strong limitation for the implementation of long-term monitoring programs in developing countries, particularly in Africa.

The work presented here was performed in the framework of an international project addressing the sustainable monitoring and management of surface water resources used for the production of drinking water in three African countries. We tested the potential of a citizen approach for monitoring cyanobacterial blooms, which are a growing threat to the drinking water supply.

This pilot study was designed, implemented and evaluated in close interaction with the Pasteur Institute of the Ivory Coast and with the populations of three villages located on the shoreline of a freshwater lagoon located near Abidjan city.

Based on the use of a smartphone application, the citizens of the three villages were invited to report water color changes, as these changes could reflect cyanobacteria proliferations. A two-year experimentation period has shown that it is possible to mobilize the local populations to monitor cyanobacterial blooms.

The data collected by citizens were consistent with the data obtained by a classical monitoring of cyanobacteria performed over seven months, but it appeared that new approaches were needed to validate the citizen data. This participatory approach also provided great improvements to the understanding and awareness of local populations regarding water quality and cyanobacterial bloom issues.

Finally, we discuss some of the difficulties and limitations of our participatory monitoring approach that should be considered by further implementations. Despite these difficulties, our work suggests that citizen monitoring is a promising approach that may complement the classical approach to sustainable monitoring of cyanobacteria in developing countries.

Contact :

J.F. Humbert, DR INRAE

Publication :

Mitroi V, Ahi KC, Bulot PY, Tra F, Deroubaix JF, et al. (2020) Can participatory approaches strengthen the monitoring of cyanobacterial blooms in developing countries ? Results from a pilot study conducted in the Lagoon Aghien (Ivory Coast). PLOS ONE 15(9) : e0238832.

Communication contact :