Papa Samba Diouf was born in Dakar in 1956. He spent his younger days both in Senegal's capital and in Diakhao, his father's village. He attended secondary school in Thiès.
"At school, I was already very much interested in issues related to nature," he recalls. His father was a teacher, and Papa Samba was exposed very early to books and other documents on nature.
"But my decision to study, and work on something related to nature came after I was shown an impressive documentary about the natural world," he further recalls. After that he did everything that would allow him to develop his passion for nature.
Further education and work
He earned a bachelor in Natural Sciences and Environmental Sciences from Dakar University and later, two PhDs in Environmental Sciences and Marine Biology respectively from Dakar University and the university of Montpellier, France.
He also holds an International Master in Administration and Business, a Master in diplomacy and strategic studies and a certificate in leadership for conservation. Before taking up the position of WWF’s West Africa Marine Programme Coordinator, he respectively worked as a researcher at the Oceanographic Research Centre of Dakar (CRODT). a coordinator of IUCN West African Network (Coastal Planning network) and a lecturer at the university of Dakar.
At CRODT he coordinated research on coastal ecosystems. In 2000, he was hired by the WWF West African Regional Programme Office, based in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, to open an office in Senegal, and launch a marine programme in West Africa.Current work
Supported by funds from WWF Netherlands, Papa Samba Diouf identified marine protected areas, fishing agreements, sustainable artisanal fishing, and endangered marine species, especially marine turtles, as the four priorities for his programme.
On the ground, he put a lot of effort into organizing meetings and workshops on these issues, where all stakeholders could participate and promote their views. This gave both Papa Samba Diouf and WWF high visibility and credit, and resulted in better understanding and information exchange between the key actors. He was presented in 2003 with WWF Africa & Madagascar Programme’s Award for Excellence and with the Award of the best teamwork of WWF International Global Marine Programme.
This was a crucial step to achieve concrete results and decisions. Nowadays, WWF has a strong presence in the West African Marine Ecoregion and is perceived by all as a partner to be worked with.
"Today, I really do what I always dreamt I would do," adds Papa Samba Diouf. He particularly appreciates the fact that preserving the environment contributes to raising the quality of life of thousands of people.
"Being able to propose on the ground solutions or alternatives that eventually will raise people's standard of living is particularly satisfying," he says.
As for the main challenge ahead, he points out the need to demonstrate that economic development can go along with conservation of the marine and coastal ecosystems in West Africa.
"To do the kind of job I'm currently doing, you need to be willing to listen to what others say, to be open to new ideas, and to constantly train yourself." he says.