27 Sep 2016

BirdLife launches Regional Implementation Team for the Guinean Forests of West Africa Biodiversity Hotspot

Drill ©Bernard Dupont/flickr
Drill ©Bernard Dupont/flickr
By Obaka Torto

On Thursday 22nd September, 2016, Birdlife International and the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), formally launched the Regional Implementation Team (RIT) for the Guinean Forests of West Africa Biodiversity Hotspot, at the Alisa Hotel, in Northridge, Accra.

During the next five years (2016-2021), the West Africa Sub-Regional Office of BirdLife International, in its capacity as the Regional Implementation Team, will coordinate the disbursement of a $9 million Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund investment, through small and large grants to civil society organisations across the eleven countries situated in the Guinean Forests Hotspot.

The Guinean Forests of West Africa represent one of the earth’s most biologically rich, but threatened ecosystems. This remarkable hotspot covers 621,705 km2, and can be divided into two sub-regions:: the ‘Upper’ and ‘Lower’ Guinean Forests. The Upper Guinean Forests stretch from Guinea in the west, through Sierra Leone, Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo and, marginally, into Benin; while the Lower Guinean Forests cover much of southern Nigeria, extending into south western Cameroon, and also include São Tomé and Príncipe and the offshore islands of Equatorial Guinea.

Map of the Guinean Forests highlighting relevant regions and countries

The launch provided a platform to share detailed information about the work of Birdlife International and CEPF globally, and most especially the history of CEPF’s investment in the Guinean Forests, which began 15 years ago. Attending the event, were representatives from civil society, and the public and private sectors, including: the Environmental Protection Agency of Ghana (EPA Ghana) International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Rainforest Alliance, West African Biodiversity and Climate Change Project (WABiCC) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Participants at the launch © Obaka Torto

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The keynote statement was delivered by Madam Salimata Abdul Salaam, [Chief Director of the Ministry of Environment, Science & Technology], who formally declared the ‘RIT launched’, while emphasising partnership with the Government of Ghana…“We call upon you to continue partnering with the government in conserving our environment for posterity and economic development,” stated Salimata Abdul Salim.

With at least 20% of the 9,000 plant species considered endemic, the Guinean Forest of West Africa is not an average flower bed. It supports 785 bird species and more than 60 mammals which are endemic to the region, including 18 species of primate. There are more than 200 species of reptiles, a quarter of which are endemic, as well as 225 amphibians more than 80 of which are endemics. Fish diversity is quite remarkable in the hotspot, with more than 510 freshwater fishes, 35% of which are thought to be endemic. About a quarter of the world's 350 species of killifish live there, half of which are endemic.

Pygmy Hippo © Ozinoh/flikcr

Unfortunately, human activities are placing extreme stress on the forests, which have been drastically reduced to a series of fragments separated by agricultural communities and degraded lands. This is threatening not only individual species, but also the health of entire ecosystems that provide important benefits for the people living within them. In order to reduce the adverse impacts on biodiversity, BirdLife will establish and co-ordinate the framework for grant-making in the Hotspot, while building a broad constituency of civil society groups working across international and political boundaries to achieve the shared conservation goals described in the Ecosystem Profile of the Guinean Forests Hotspot.

The very first Call for Proposals (Large Grants and Small Grants) is now available on the CEPF website (here) and the BirdLife website (here). In case of any questions, please contact the Regional Implementation Team (RIT) at


The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) is a joint initiative of l’Agence Française de Développement, Conservation International, the European Union, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan, the 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