Transboundary Biosphere Reserve in the Mono Delta
Title: Transboundary Biosphere Reserve in the Mono Delta
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU)
Countries: Benin, Togo
Lead executing agencies: Benin: Ministère de l’Environnement Chargé de la Gestion des Changements Climatiques, du Reboisement et de la Protection des Ressources Naturelles et Forestières (MECGCCRPRNF), Centre National de Gestion des Réserves de Faune (CENAGREF)
Togo: Ministère de l’Environnement et des Ressources Forestières (MERF), Direction des Ressources Forestières (DRF)
Overall term: 2013 to 2019
The Mono river delta on the southern border between Benin and Togo is home to many different animals, some of which are under serious threat. The diverse landscape includes rivers, lakes, wetlands, savannahs, gallery forests, mangroves and beaches. Among the animals that live here are hippopotamuses, manatees, red-bellied monkeys (which are endemic to the south of Nigeria, Benin and Togo), antelope, buffalo and many varieties of waterfowl.
However, this biodiversity is being increasingly threatened by the growing human population and the mounting pressure on natural resources that this entails. Around 80 per cent of the local population earn a living from agriculture, fishing or the timber and charcoal production. Poverty and a lack of knowledge of more sustainable forms of land use lead local inhabitants to overuse the natural resources they depend on, thereby losing the basis for their livelihoods in the medium term.
Only a few areas in the Mono delta have been placed under protection, including the Togodo South National Park and the neighbouring Togodo North nature reserve in Togo, the Adjamé communal nature reserve in Benin that is managed by the local population, and three areas recognised under the Ramsar Convention on Wetland Conservation (two of which are in Togo and one in Benin). There are also small local ‘sacred’ forests that do not yet enjoy any official status, and some other areas in which local non-governmental organisations and the local population are working together to achieve protected status for these lands. However, even in areas that are already protected, illegal hunting, deforestation and agriculture still take place. The authorities responsible for these areas and the owners of neighbouring land have so far not had the necessary resources to stop and prevent such illegal activities.
The region’s natural resources, particularly its biodiversity, enjoy special protection and are used in a sustainable manner. The associated economic development in the area surrounding the future core zones of the biosphere reserve will primarily benefit the local population.
Building on existing local initiatives, the first step involves identifying particularly valuable areas in the Mono delta area and discussing with the local population the different ways in which these areas can be protected as ‘core zones’.
In each of the neighbouring buffer zones, the focus is on using forests, rivers and fields in a sustainable manner. Here, the project is supporting training for relevant groups on how to conserve resources and how to set up the organisations and management structures that will regulate sustainable usage of these resources.
To ensure that local activities are placed on a secure legal basis, the project team is advising state stakeholders at regional and national level on how they can drive economic development by preserving biodiversity and ecosystem services and implementing ecosystem-based measures to protect against flooding, as well as on how they can integrate such activities into their development plans.
The project is also taking a leading role in forming a transboundary coordination group. This group’s responsibilities will include mediating between different sectors when there are conflicts over usage of resources, observing how large-scale projects affect the region and the individual core zones, and participating in decision-making. Once all the necessary steps have been taken, the partner countries Benin and Togo will apply to have the Mono delta recognised as a biosphere reserve by UNESCO’s ‘Man and the Biosphere’ (MAB) programme.