Pendjari National Park, Benin: Working Together to Protect Natural Resources Serves Both Nature and

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    Pendjari National Park, Benin: Working Together to Protect Natural Resources Serves Both Nature and Humankind

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    The Pendjari National Park in the north of Benin was granted special protection in 1954 as an animal reserve. It is part of a protected area covering 28,600 km² and stretching into Burkina Faso and Niger. In 1986 it was recognized by UNESCO as a biosphere reserve. The demarcation of the protected area and the resettling of the population were conducted without prior involvement of the local people, and without any parallel promotion or development measures. This led to the over-exploitation of natural resources in the now densely populated border zones of the national park. The people found it difficult to accept the new regulations designed to protect the park. In the hunting zone, for instance, land was farmed illegally, and settlements were built. As a result, the protection of the environment was no longer ensured; conflicts between the park authorities and the local population were the order of the day.

    The “Pendjari National Park” project aims to maintain the protected areas in the long term, to establish efficient park management, and to ensure the active involvement and participation of the local people. To this end, the project is promoting the development of the inhabited zones bordering on the national park. It is advising the partner on the establishment of an effective executing organization structure and on the management of the park and hunting zones. In addition, an ecological monitoring system is being set up to observe and monitor the ecological status quo and the development thereof. At the heart of these activities is the active involvement of the local people, be it in the management of the protected and hunting areas, for instance by giving them a say on personnel- related decisions, or by creating additional sources of income through the promotion of tourism and small crafts.

    With the park authorities, which are now financially independent, it has been agreed that 30 % of revenues from big-game hunting will be accorded to the surrounding villages for development measures to be decided by the villagers. The villages are also given the meat from big game hunting for consumption or sale. New agreements between the inhabitants of the areas around the national park, the park authorities and the local authorities have removed the stigma of illegality from agricultural activities within the protected area, provided certain conditions are met (no permanent buildings, paths, etc. may be built).

    Many donors are contributing to the success of the Pendjari project: the national protection programme of which the Pendjari National Park is an important component, is promoted by the European Union, the Global Environment Facility, France and the Netherlands as well as the German development cooperation. Within the framework of financial cooperation, the roads are being built, restored and maintained administrative and residential buildings are being constructed, water points are being created, and machinery and communications technology are being provided. A trust fund ensures the financial sustainability of the measumeasures.

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