Ziama Massif UNESCO Biosphere Reserve: Nature Conservation through Participation
In the Ziama Massif Biosphere Reserve in Guinea, the MAB National Committee invested the #SOSAfricanHeritage funds in participatory awareness campaigns for more conservation and hygiene measures. Now, the population is better informed about the consequences of poaching, deforestation and COVID-19.
The aim of #SOSAfricanHeritage is to contribute to preserving independent and sustainable organisational structures at African World Heritage Sites and Biosphere Reserves with the participation of civil society as well as to secure spaces dedicated to education for global citizenship, sustainability and cultural diversity.
The Ziama Massif Biosphere Reserve is located at the border with Liberia in south-eastern Guinea and about 100km from the town of N'Zérékoré. The forest is dense, evergreen, or semi-evergreen. The Ziama forest is a refuge for several rare, endangered, and threatened species. Among the 124 mammal species are elephants, monkeys, buffaloes, pygmy hippopotami, chimpanzees, hoofed animals, and carnivores. There are also various species of bats, rodents, birds, and reptiles.
The forest is one of the most important habitats for endemic species of the large Upper Guinean forest block between Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Côte d'Ivoire.
Restrictions due to the pandemic
Since March 2020, the Government of Guinea has taken measures to combat the pandemic, including border closures, physical distancing, and downsizing civil service. According to a June 2020 WWF analysis, tropical deforestation increased by 150 percent in March as Covid-19 spread globally. In Guinea, too, particularly in the Ziama Biosphere Reserve, COVID-19 protection measures and staff cuts in the services have led to a reduction in guard patrols. The result is more illegal logging and poaching. The loss of purchasing power due to the slowdown in economic activity caused by COVID-19 has led a large part of the local population to resort to the use of forest products (medicinal plants, wild fruits) and poaching of protected species to secure their income.
Remedy through information and work with local actors
The aim of the project was to strengthen nature conservation in the Ziama Massif Biosphere Reserve by improving the capacities of the local population to combat poaching and deforestation. Therefore, the MAB National Committee of Guinea implemented awareness-raising events in eight villages that are particularly close to the core and buffer zones of the biosphere reserve. For this purpose, the committee members first interviewed various local mandate holders to identify important actors in the region, such as hunters, farmers, cattle breeders or women's groups. The training covered, among other things, the zoning of the protected area and the activities allowed or prohibited in each zone, the Forest Code, the Wildlife Protection Act and hunting regulations, as well as strategies to combat poaching and deforestation. Beforehand, the relevant legal texts had been translated into the three local languages. Hygiene measures for protection against COVID-19 were also part of the training and health kits were distributed to the population. As part of the information campaign, the MAB National Committee set up four anti-poaching and anti-deforestation awareness signs along the national roads and distributed information leaflets. The radio station "Rurale de N'zérékoré" broadcasted further awareness messages in local languages.
On the initiative of the Federal Foreign Office and the Goethe-Institut, an International Relief Fund was set up in summer 2020 to provide rapid support to cultural and educational organisations abroad during the COVID-19-Pandemic. With its special support programme #SOSAfricanHeritage, the German Commission for UNESCO is part of the Relief Fund consortium.
- Site: Ziama Massif
- Country: Guinea
- Type of site: UNESCO Biosphere Reserve
- Year of inscription: 1980