In Goz Djarat, a rural village located at the main entrance of Zakouma National Park in Chad, a group of women is working hard, early this morning in their new vegetable garden, established with the assistance of conservation NGO African Parks, which manages the Greater Zakouma Ecosystem in partnership with the Government of the Republic of Chad and local communities. Community animators are showing them how to use modern gardening techniques to plant vegetables and enrich the soil. Together with three other groups in the area, these women are provided with training, equipment and coaching, thanks to the financial support of the Save Our Species IUCN-EU Rapid action Grant (SOS-RAG). They are among several rural community groups (200 people) which will benefit from this project during the coming year, through modern gardening, beekeeping and improved cooking stoves. “This project, which has a special focus on women, brings direct benefits to communities surrounding Zakouma through alternative income generating activities, and will help us to structure the value-chains. It is also a way to decrease pressure from human activities on the National Park and the natural resources through modern techniques” says Mahamat Moussa, Zakouma National Park’s Community Coordinator.
Improving their livelihoods in times of COVID-19, while linking these initiatives to their full engagement in supporting biodiversity conservation, will be key to achieve our greater conservation goals. Zakouma, home to nearly 600 elephants and over half of the world’s population of the critically endangered Kordofan giraffe, among other key species of the Sudano-sahelian savanah bioma, is a unique place for conservation, but faces several short and long term threats. While poaching had been a plague for several decades in the past, African Parks, working together with the Chadian Government and local communities, has succeeded in dramatically reducing poaching with zero poached elephants recorded since 2015. This was achieved not only by law enforcement but importantly to the park’s unique approach to community engagement.
Yet the recent COVID-19 outbreak had a tremendous impact on the nascent tourism market in Chad. The loss of associated park revenue, which is directly reinvested back in the park and communities it supports, impacted Zakouma’s activities including its community program. Funding support became essential in order to continue with critical community and conservation activities. Thanks to generous funding support including by the IUCN Save Our Species and co-funded by the European Union, Zakouma has been able to ensure the continuity and development of our community projects, which are vital to maintaining the deterrence of poaching of vulnerable and critically endangered species including elephant and black rhino.
The support of the IUCN Save Our Species and co-funded by the European Union is also contributing to a comprehensive Environmental Education and sensitization program, which includes hosting school students in Zakouma at the Environmental Visitor Centre, sensitization sessions with villages and nomadic groups, an environmental education program in schools supporting teachers around the park, and mitigating human-wildlife conflict. “The sensitization and support that we bring is very important. Without it, protecting fauna inside Zakouma would simply not be enough” explains Abdulaye Abderamane, Zakouma National Park Community Animator.
This publication was produced with the financial support of the European Union through IUCN Save Our Species. Its contents are the sole responsibility of African Parks and do not necessarily reflect the views of IUCN or the European Union