Local populations living close to protected areas in West Africa , earn an additional 40% of their income from activities related to these areas.
This is the result of IUCN’s 2010 survey on the economic benefits of protected areas to households in West Africa. The study looked at how protected areas affect jobs and revenues and compared the benefits with the average agricultural income.
“People living near protected areas have a very low income anyway,” says Geoffroy Mauvais, IUCN Regional coordinator, Protected Areas in Central and West Africa. “We’ve found out that sustainable gathering of natural products made possible by the protected area are the major source of increased income, with tourism and fishing following far behind.”
The results come from some of the poorest areas in countries that are among the least well off in West Africa. The annual per capita income of the almost 8,000 people living in the local villages surrounding the Nazinga forest in Burkina Faso is estimated at €304 in 2010. Sustainable gathering of shea nuts and other fruits, wild honey, grasses for brooms, straw and wood, made possible by the protected area, accounts for €78, which is 80% of the poverty line income.
“This 40% income growth can be considered as a minimum amount that could easily be increased with investment in ecotourism, for example,“ adds Mauvais. “We now have a better understanding of the potential that protected areas have for both sustainable development and nature conservation, keeping in mind of course that conservation must be the priority and that local development must contribute to its reinforcement.“