- The conservation and management of the ecologically important "Tridom Park" has been assured by fresh international funding. The enormous park includes 7.5 percent of the entire Congo Basin rainforest and is spread over three countries; Gabon, Congo Brazzaville and Cameroon. It represents one of the world's richest ecoregions, but is threatened by logging.
The Global Environment Facility (GEF) has approved a proposal submitted by the conservation group WWF to manage the large trans-boundary area of the Congo Basin rainforest. GEF - an independent financial organisation that provides grants to developing countries for projects that benefit the global environment - today announced its approval of 25 environmental projects worldwide, worth nearly US$ 1 billion. This included the "Tridom project" and a "forestry and environment sector programme" in Cameroon.
Funding for the "Tridom project", which will focus on conservation and wise use of natural resources in an area shared by Gabon, Congo Brazzaville and Cameroon, amounts to US$ 10 million over seven years. The project focuses on maintaining biodiversity in the Congo Basin by improving the parks' management.
The "Tridom" - or Tri-national Dja-Odzala-Minkebe - project area is within the world's second largest expanse of rainforest: the Western Congo Basin Moist Forest Ecoregion of Central Africa. According to WWF, this is "one of the richest ecoregions in Africa in terms of biodiversity, supporting many species of mammals," including western lowland gorilla and forest elephant, as well as many endemic birds, amphibians, fish, and swallowtail butterflies.
GEF adds that the primary biodiversity values of the area are its "intact assemblages of large forest mammals." These large mammals - and especially the forest elephants - are "still able to range widely along age-old migration routes that often cross national boundaries." According to GEF, the region also provides food, materials and shelter for over 20 million people and plays an important role as a sink and potential source for global emissions of carbon dioxide.
However, the area's globally important biodiversity faces increasingly severe threats from commercial logging and mining, as well as large-scale commercial hunting for wild meat and ivory, which often uses logging concession access roads, the environmentalists warn.
- In addition, a limited national public sector capacity to plan, oversee, and control natural resource use, as well as the absence of a mechanism for coordinated trans-boundary activities, is contributing to unsustainable exploitation of natural resources in the project area, the WWF's project coordinator, Kamdem Toham, said in a statement yesterday.
According to the group, the "Tridom project" aims to help mitigate these threats, "while at the same time put in place the long-term resource management and financing systems needed to achieve conservation objectives."
The project is set to "link and connect existing and new protected areas with corridors of sustainably managed forest areas with different land uses." The project also is to "build capacity to control resource use; monitor trends in biodiversity and ecosystem functions; establish an effective law enforcement system; and establish collaborative management schemes with the private sector and communities, including, in particular, indigenous people," WWF says.
The group adds that the project further "aims to find ways to improve benefits for local communities through revenues generated from alternative livelihoods in order to ease pressure on natural resources, and to set up a diversified sustainable financing scheme to cover the core management costs, in particular costs related to law enforcement and protected area management."
Protecting the ecologically important Congo Basin has been given high priority by Central African governments. In the so-called "Yaoundé plan de Convergence" and the Yaoundé Declaration, regional governments have pleaded to conserve essential parts of the region's valuable rainforest. The "Tridom project" is one of the top priorities within these regional environmental efforts.
The approved trans-boundary initiative aligns with the already gazetted Sangha Trinational Area - comprising Dzanga-Ndoki National Park in the Central African Republic, Nouabale-Ndoki National Park in Congo, and Lobeke National Park in Cameroon. This protected and sustainable use complex is part of the commitments taken by governments of Central Africa at the 1999 Yaoundé Forest Summit, a forum that planned to protect vast tracts of forest in the Congo Basin.
- Thanks to previous GEF funding, the "Tridom" team has successfully worked with a number of the three countries' partners and stakeholders to harmonise visions and actions, WWF says in a statement.
According to the group, "the full and approved project proposal will deal with implementation through management of the different protected areas, creation of biological corridors, and initiation of sustainable resource use in buffer zones to ensure conservation outside the reserves while contributing to poverty alleviation."
The total costs of the seven-year "Tridom project" amounts to US$ 45 million. While GEF contributes with over US$ 10 million to the conservation project, the governments of Congo, Gabon and Cameroon will contribute with US$ 11 million on their own. A further US$ 23 million comes from other donors, according to GEF.
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