Strengthening Ivorian Cocoa Stakeholder Landscape Management Capacity to Foster Conservation
- By Mélanie Bayo, Director
The Taï National ¨Park (TNP) is the largest tropical primary forest under protection of the entire West African forest area. With an area of about 5,360 km2. The TNP and the N'Zo Wildlife Reserve represent more than 50% of the total area of West African forest areas placed under strict protection status. Because of its large size, the TNP is a unique opportunity to preserve the entire genetic reservoir of a complex forest ecosystem.
The Cavally forest located near TNP, an area of 67,000 hectares is highly threatened. Agriculture is the most significant factor contributing to deforestation. The production of export products such as coffee, cocoa, rubber, pineapple and oil palm, primarily in the southern part of the country, is an even greater threat to deforestation. Therefore, the implementation of a biodiversity conservation project in the area of TNP might have to face up various challenges which include:
- Environmental issues: the preservation of the various ecosystems of this massif will help protect the ecological balance of the region and permanently curb the encroachment of agriculture in those protected areas.
- Economic and social issues: rational management of natural resources will contribute to the development and to the improvement of the standard of living of populations, especially rural populations.
- Scientific stakes: the preservation of the richness and specificity of the fauna and flora of the park will enable potential important discoveries.
One of the communities involved in such conservation project belong to the cooperative CAFTA (Cooperative Agricole Fraternité de Taï), located in the landscape between the northern border of TNP and Cavally Forest. The project aims to help to tackle environmental and social issues of the area including climate change, deforestation, poverty and unsustainable farming.
The project funded by CEPF was launched in July 2017 and is running until December 2021. Up to date, thanks to many stakeholders' initiatives, the park is quite well preserved but still under a huge pressure. The situation for Cavally forest located near TNP is most worrying.
With actions focusing on these underlying threats, the project supports the government and local communities in their efforts to eliminate deforestation and poaching of the supply chain and by promoting an agricultural economy without deforestation through the creation of a Landscape Management Board (LMB). The LMB project covers 06 communities and involves 487 cocoa producing families and a wider community through activities like sensitizations in villages and radio programs. A key activity of the project is the establishment of a Land Board Management with several objectives including developing a "baseline analysis" for the Taï-Cavally landscape that defines the threats and root causes in the two ecosystems; overcoming the pressing threats to the ecosystems with focus on collective action beyond the efforts of landowners in addition to developing strategies and collaborative actions to address these urgent threats.
The LMB was established and endorsed by the traditional authorities, as well as representatives from the district and governmental agencies in charge of parks and forest protection (Office Ivoirien des Parks et Reserves, Société de Développement des Forêts). A Participatory Landscape Management Plan (PLMP) was finalized and approved by the local communities.
In addition to its associated biodiversity benefits, the project also targets on safeguarding future cocoa production by promoting the equally critical adoption of sustainable, climate-smart and biodiversity-conserving practices to increase cocoa farmers’ incomes. Furthermore, the project works with farmers including women, training them on skills and revenue diversification opportunities such as chicken rearing and beekeeping. For chicken rearing, a pilot total of 50 farmers were selected, of which 32 are women. Over 309 chicken and chicks have been produced (162 in Daobly site and 147 in Paule Oula). For beekeeping, 10 hives were established out of which 4 have been colonized by the bees.
The LMB has been raising awareness of the need to manage natural resources more sustainably. For GUEI Alexis, a farmer who helped develop the landscape action plan, “The strength of the action plan is that it brings cohesion between conservation goals and cultural beliefs and traditions”. For him “The project has allowed discussions around both ecosystems which are keys heritage for our communities.”
Finally, under the supervision of the LMB and with the support of SODEFOR (the national agency in charge of forest protection), 9865 shade trees plantlets of 4 species (Terminalia ivorensis, Terminalia superba, Riccinodendron heudelotti, Tieghemella hecklii) were distributed and have been planted in farms for shade improvement and to establish a buffer zone (farms located near an ecosystem).