The long-term preservation and protection of the Pendjari Complex can only be achieved with active participation and engagement with local communities and local authorities. With at least 40,000 people living around the park, building long-term support is a top priority. In 2019 alone, 43 community meetings were organised to discuss a future vision of the park and potential benefits for communities which helped shape our Community Development Plan.
To build this partnership over the long term, African Parks will focus on education, economic impact and protecting and restoring the environment. Our aim is to provide quality education that will support economic and social transformation while raising awareness of environmental issues. In 2019, as many as 3,200 school children, including 176 teachers from 66 schools, visited the park for free. In addition, 25 wildlife clubs were set up whose members helped plant 3,433 trees which were provided to communities to take pressure off natural resources.
Agriculture is the main livelihood for local communities, and limited space for planting crops is the main issue faced by local populations. On the outskirts of Pendjari, 30,000 hectares are occupied by local communities for agricultural production and livestock, therefore we need to prioritise the prevention of human-wildlife conflict - as well as the creation of alternative and more sustainable livelihoods. And so, in collaboration with the Village Associations Union for Wildlife Reserves Management (AVIGREF), sustainable livelihood projects have been initiated involving organic cotton fish, sesame, and soya farming, shea nut processing, and beekeeping and has so far seen the participation of over 200 people. In 2019, 180 hives were purchased to support local beekeepers and 134 farmers produced 45,610 kg of organic cotton; 67 soya farmers produced 3,011 kg and 58 sesame farmers produced 2,500 kg of sesame seeds.
A tourism economy is a strong driving force for development and is a top priority in our efforts to support local economic development and job opportunities for the communities. The revitalisation of Pendjari is one of the 45 flagship projects of the investment programme "Revealing Benin" launched in December 2016 by the Presidency of Benin. Tourism is one of the strategic sectors targeted by this programme, the objective being to take advantage of the historical, cultural and natural heritage of Benin to develop a tourist industry that provides strong economic outcomes and jobs. Beyond the exceptional fauna and flora, the Afro-Portuguese architecture of Porto-Novo, or the memorials of the slave trade in Ouidah, are prime examples. The preserved coastline of the country is also a solid asset for the development of a qualitative ecotourism offer.
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