A complex of national parks stretching across Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger forms the largest and most important continuum of intact ecosystems in the West African savannah belt.
|Women from these communities are key to conservation efforts|
The W-Arly-Pendjari (WAP) protected area contains a number of parks and reserves, including a national park based around a w-shaped bend in the river Niger.
The WAP complex covers some 2,755 sq km of terrestrial, semi-aquatic and aquatic ecosystems. It contains one of the few viable populations of elephants in West Africa, plus over 300 species of rare birds and is a natural refuge for endangered fauna and flora from all three countries.
But unsustainable practices by the local population seeking land for cultivation are threatening the biodiversity of the region. The area is currently at risk from a number of threats including agricultural encroachment, poaching, uncontrolled bushfires, water pollution, climate change and unsustainable timber harvesting.
The WAP regional project is designed to protect these fragile and valuable ecosystems by strengthening and harmonizing the political, institutional and community-based conservation structures in place.
Developing national capacity: supporting communities
|Local community leaders discussing the management of natural resources|
The project focuses on supporting the communities that rely on the natural resources, creating better links between the protected areas at the local level, and coordinating conservation efforts across the whole WAP system. Particular emphasis is being placed on effective community involvement. For the communities who use the natural resources, the project is raising awareness about the risks to animal species caused by hunting within the protected area, as well as the potential benefits of wildlife tourism.
Women from these communities are key to conservation efforts because they are at the heart of the food production chain. They are central users of natural resources due to their role in farming smaller varieties of livestock and crop cultivation. Women are also responsible for the production of shea oil and butter, made from the nuts of the indigenous shea tree, which can be used to make cooking oil, water proofing wax, candles and medicinal ointments.
Gender equality is a cross-cutting concern in this project which aims to expand women’s role in the decision-making process on the use of these natural resources. To that end, the project will train women about sustainability and provide them with access to small grants for ‘biodiversity-friendly’ economic activities including ecological and cultural tourism.
At the international level, the project is working closely with donor agencies and policy-makers from all three countries to improve the intergovernmental dialogue needed to ensure consistency in conservation policy, and coordinate support to the WAP complex.
The project will also reinforce partnerships between local communities and the private sector, civil society organizations and government agencies responsible for conservation.
UNOPS is executing the $5.1 million project on behalf of the United Nations Development Programme Global Environmental Facility (UNDP-GEF) and the three countries – Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger.
Achieving UNOPS contribution goals
During 2010-2013, four high-level contribution goals are defining the work of UNOPS. This project is working towards the fourth contribution goal: Environmental sustainability and adaptation to climate change.