The Congo: Protecting Conkouati Douli National Park

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The Challenge

Conkouati-Douli National Park (CDNP) is the most ecologically diverse park in the Republic of Congo, extending from the Atlantic coast to inland mountains and savannah. Habitats include beaches, mangroves, lagoons, and inland lakes surrounded by a mountain chain with dense tropical forest. It is also home to a huge variety of water and land based animals. 

Easy access between CDNP and the capital Pointe Noire means that CDNP is vulnerable to unsustainable natural resource exploitation such as illegal timber extraction, illegal industrial scale fisheries, poaching for ivory, hunting for bushmeat and mineral extraction. All these destructive and unsustainable activities result in the degradation of the park’s natural resources and with few other viable income opportunities, local populations are easily persuaded to undertake such exploitation.

Project Aims

With few viable income opportunities for the impoverished communities living in and around CDNP, local populations are easily persuaded to undertake exploitation of the park’s natural resources. As such, the overall aim of this project is to ensure the long-term conservation of Conkouati Douli National Park (CDNP) is secured through improved capacity of the community to protect, manage, and benefit from natural resources, strengthening CDNP’s climate change resilience.

Specific objectives are as follows:

  • Create more sustainable opportunities which will result in reduced illegal extraction of natural resources via decreased dependence on illegal products (i.e., bushmeat, timber). This effort will focus on developing sustainable fisheries.
  • Increase the benefits local communities receive from the Park’s existence such as building an ecotourism program.
  • Work with local schools and community groups to provide environmental education and promote awareness of CDNP and its natural resources to increase local communities’ capacity to manage natural resources and work with local associations to provide training in relevant skills and governance systems.

How it Works

To reduce threats to Conkouati-Douli National Park (CDNP), alternative activities and benefits to local communities will be provided to increase wellbeing and improve perceptions of CDNP, creating positive conditions and enabling a decrease in destructive practices (i.e. illegal hunting and timber harvesting) that degrade the park. 

  • Work with local fishers and fishery associations to establish a more sustainable plan including mapping and proposed zoning to protect local artisanal fishers from illegal or industrial fishers, and the introduction of more efficient fishing practices. Developing a sustainable fisheries scheme will also reduce pressures on bush meat. 
  • Develop a successful eco-tourism program, providing direct community benefits to ensure local communities understand the park’s benefits, through revenue generation and promotion of sustainable resource extraction.
  • Develop a micro-finance programme, providing local people the chance to set up small-scale livelihoods by offering small loans and technical support for projects such as animal husbandry (goats and poultry), horticulture (pineapples, green pepper, chillies, tomatoes, eggplants, and watermelons), as well as agroforestry (mixed fruit trees).
  • Deliver an education and awareness program in schools and communities, leading community training promoting effective governance and management systems to ensure local communities have the capacity and skills to engage in sustainable resource use. To date, the programme has been introduced in the curriculum of 17 schools (impacting over 700 students) allowing for active student participation, through games, expeditions, beach cleaning efforts etc.  

Place & People

Conkouati-Douli National Park (CDNP) is in the south-west of the Republic of Congo, 150km from the economic capital and port town of Pont Noire. CDNP is the most ecologically diverse park in the Congo, extending from the Atlantic coast, inland to mountains and savannah. 

Habitats include beaches, mangroves, lagoons, and inland lakes surrounded by a mountain chain with dense tropical forest. The area is consequently home to an extraordinarily diverse range of fauna, with marine species such as manatees, marine turtles, dolphins and whales, and many critically threatened terrestrial species, such as forest elephants, western lowland gorillas, chimpanzees, mandrills and forest buffalo and 400 species of vertebrates.

30 villages in and around the park are home to 7,000 people. Communities are made up of two principal ethnic groups – the Vili and the Loumbou. The Vili communities are based along the coast. Known to have settled here in the 13th Century, they predominantly rely on fishing for their livelihood. The Loumbou and various other forest tribes tend to rely more on agriculture, hunting and employment in the logging concessions. 

More than 50% of the population are aged under 16, while 80% of the people between 16 and 25 are unemployed. Less than 55 of the overall population are formally employed. 

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Sustainability Goals

Partner Profile

 

Wildlife Conservation Society’s (WCS) goal is to conserve the world’s largest wild places in 16 priority regions, home to more than 50% of the planet’s biodiversity. WCS uses science to discover and understand the natural world. Using this knowledge, they engage and inspire decision-makers, communities, and millions of supporters to take action to protect the wildlife and wild places.