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Africa
30 Oct 2014

The resurgence of a National Park in Algeria

Once classified as a National Park, Djebel Babor forest is now threatened by overgrazing and agricultural encroachment and needs re-classification
By Shaun Hurrell

Story by Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund Mediterranean Hotspot Regional Implementation Team 

Amongst breathtaking mountain scenery and fast-flowing rivers, the Djebel Babor Forest is a remarkable site in northern Algeria that consists of endemic fir and mixed forests around the second highest mountain (2004m) in the Algeria Tell Atlas range. Djebel Babor has an interesting history: classified as a National Park in 1921; a decade later the area of the park was reduced and then it was declassified in 1985.

Home to several national endemic species such as Algerian Fir and Algerian Nuthatch, the site also harbours North African endemic species such as Atlas Cedar and the Endangered Barbary Macaque which previously had a much larger range. Threatened by fires, overgrazing and illegal logging, it was clear that Djebel Babor needed re-classification as a National Park. But with a complex history, this would need the involvement of many local stakeholders.

Atlas Cedar, endemic to Djebel Babor With support from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) Mediterranean programme, the Association de Réflexion, d'Échanges et d'Actions pour L'Environnement et le Développement (AREA-ED) aims to re-establish Djebel Babor as a National Park and create a buffer zone around it to help ensure its preservation, in partnership with the Algerian National Agronomic Institute for Research and the Direction Général des Forêts (DGF).

This September AREA-ED held a consultation meeting to discuss the proposed National Park re-classification, where there were interesting discussions about the expectations of the local community and the geographical limits of the park. Experts involved in the preparatory studies of the site participated to this event and presented the ecological global importance, the threats and the potential of Djebel Babor.

AREA-ED and its partners have started the process for the re-establishment and the proposed extension of the boundaries includes both the municipalities of Oued Bared and Babor as buffer zones. A buffer zone is an area peripheral to a specific protected area, where restrictions on resource use and special development measures are undertaken in order to enhance the conservation value of the protected area. The representatives of AREA-ED and DGF took the opportunity to discuss openly with the local communities about the feasibility of expanding the park area to include a buffer zone.

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Meeting with local stakeholders

Traditionally, local people from Oued Bared and Babor graze this area with sheep and cattle and grow vegetables on the arable land. In the meeting, concerns were expressed in relation to possible restrictions to their traditional activities after the integration of their land into the park’s buffer zone. AREA-ED explained the possible alternatives, e.g. reduction in the number of grazing animals but with the development of a quality label to sell the products for a higher price, and stipulations on which chemicals could not be used in vegetable production. A further series of meetings to discuss the future of this National Park are planned, together with a questionnaire involving all local habitants.


BirdLife International - including its Middle East office and the BirdLife Partners DOPPS/BirdLife Slovenia and LPO (Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux, BirdLife in France) - is providing the Regional Implementation Team (RIT) for the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) in the Mediterranean Basin Biodiversity Hotspot (CEPF Med).

Find out more at www.birdlife.org/cepf-med.

The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) is a joint initiative of l’Agence Française de Développement (AFD), Conservation International (CI), the European Union, the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the Government of Japan, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the World Bank. A fundamental goal is to ensure civil society is engaged in biodiversity conservation. More information on CEPF can be found at www.cepf.net.