Countries of the Region
Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Còte d'Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo
There are increasing efforts in Western and Central Africa to link the WCPA network with the activities of the IUCN regional office
There are a number of protected area projects managed by regional and country offices in West & Central Africa and there is a need to better integrate the activities of WCPA with the implementation of those projects.
African nations have created over 2 million sq km of protected areas. This massive size - four times the size of Spain - reflects both the vast size of Africa and a high level of commitment by African nations to the principles of conservation and sustainable development. African protected areas are the principal safeguard for Africa's rich biodiversity.
Key African protected area issues include:
- Wide spread rural poverty coupled with, in many cases, declining national economies. This places an imperative on protected areas to relate to the needs of rural development, where possible, particularly through nature based tourism, with appropriate mechanisms for benefit sharing.
- Protected areas cover more than 8.6% of the land area of Africa but, in many cases, they are threatened by civil unrest, weak institutions, poorly trained staff and limited budgets.
- Tourism is a locally important industry in the context of protected areas, but cannot be seen as a general panacea for the future effective establishment and management of protected areas. Tourism offers major potential for development in Eastern and Southern Africa. However, this is not the case in West and Central Africa and protected area strategies based around Tourism are less likely to be successful.
- There is considerable legislation relating to protected areas in West and Central Africa at national levels, however a large percentage of this legislation is out of date, and, in many cases, lacks the sufficient resources and mechanisms to ensure effective implementation.
Donor support, while significant, has largely failed to stem the tide of biodiversity loss in West and Central Africa.
In response to these issues, it is considered important that African protected areas should, where possible, become "engines for rural development" by:
- Providing facilities for better communications, training, employment and health.
- Complementing strict protected areas with multiple use of protected areas (for example covering activities such as animal harvesting, pastoralism, plant products, bee keeping) plus allowing for appropriately managed buffer zones surrounding existing protected areas.
- Integrating protected areas with development and land use planning so that they are seen as linked components of the landscape rather than as isolated islands.
- More effective involvement of local communities is essential, including initiatives to develop co-management regimes.
- Protected areas must become more self-sufficient (fees, trust funds, support groups, ecosystem services, sponsorship, international support). In West and Central Africa it is important that donor support encourage such systems.
- Protected areas institutions require reform and, in general, need to be more flexible, more marked oriented, and further from government, that is the case at present.
- Private land owners should become partners in the establishment and management of protected areas and existing initiatives in this area need to be encouraged and expended.
- Protected area management requires a high levels of entrepreneurial skills.
- Transboundary protected areas (Peace Parks) provide a useful mechanism for linking protected areas across national boundaries and existing efforts in this area need to be accelerated.
- Developments in West and Central Africa, such as in the W National Park, should be encouraged and expanded.
Donors need to give sustainable support to the above.
IUCN WCPA Regional Vice-Chair West and Central Africa