Development of the Tai and Comoé nature conservation and economic areas

Project description

Title: Development of the Taï and Comoé nature conservation and economic areas in Côte d'Ivoire
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Côte d’Ivoire
Lead executing agency: Ministry of Agriculture (MINAGRI)
Partners: Development partnerships with TNCI, Barry Callebaut, CIPEXI
Overall term: 2013 to 2016

Context

Following several years of continuous political and socio-economic crisis, Côte d’Ivoire is undergoing a period of transformation. During the conflict, agricultural production fell to subsistence level in some regions because the farmers were unable to buy supplies and equipment or market their products. Many protected areas and state forests were badly damaged. Two of the most important protected areas are the Taï National Park, which is the largest intact rainforest in West Africa, in the southwest of the country, and the Comoé National Park in the north. They have both been designated as UNESCO biosphere reserves and natural World Heritage sites. The parks provide the foundation for a stable microclimate which is crucial to local agricultural production. Taï National Park is under considerable pressure as 15 per cent of the world’s cacao and palm oil is produced in its vicinity, along with other crops. In the region surrounding Comoé National Park the important crops are cotton and cashew nuts. Extensive cultivation methods, the low level of agricultural modernisation, and weakened state institutions have reduced production and the incomes of producers.

Objective

Biodiversity conservation and the sustainable management of natural resources are improved in the Taï and Comoé nature conservation and economic areas. The rural population uses cultivation practices that encourage biodiversity and simultaneously increase their income.

Approach

The programme works with the relevant ministries to develop political strategies that mainstream sustainable methods for use in agriculture and forest management. At the same time, the strategies take biodiversity conservation into account.

In close cooperation with local stakeholders, the programme is expanding the value chains for cacao, palm oil, cashew nuts, maize, onions and pig farming. It is also developing fair business relations between the agricultural industry and family enterprises. In addition to this, it is working with the wood industry to ensure that forest resources in the Taï and Comoé economic areas are managed sustainably.

In the southwest of the country, programme activities focus on developing the economy in the areas surrounding Taï National Park and on park protection. To this end, the programme is drawing up a strategy with its partners for re-integrating illegally used agricultural areas into the national park. Working with the park managers, it is creating systems to improve the way the park is run. Networks and platforms for dialogue with the private sector also promote the protection and development of the park.

In addition to Taï National Park, the programme concentrates on Comoé National Park and its economic environment. Here the programme is advising the environmental and agricultural authority on improving the financial and technical support for sustainable rural economic development and nature conservation policies. The programme is also providing employees from the park protection authority with management training, so they understand exactly what their role involves and are better able to carry it out. The programme aims to mitigate existing conflicts between smallholders and livestock farmers over land rights by offering targeted advice and cultivating awareness. In addition, agricultural extension services and sector associations receive support to expand the range of training courses they offer to smallholders. The training focuses on sustainable and environmentally friendly cultivation methods. Facilitating access to agricultural supplies and loans for people living on the periphery of Comoé National Park should raise both productivity and willingness to make investments.

The consulting firm GFA supports the implementation of the project.

Results

A total of 450 small activities relating to rice, vegetable cultivation, handicrafts and animal husbandry have been carried out over the past few years, increasing the annual incomes of around 8,000 households by 300 euros. Local business cycles have swung into action, so fewer conflicts have arisen among the population. Partners also tested a new variety of onions that the farmers are able to grow and market even outside the normal growing season. This raises the incomes of the producers.

Working jointly with companies, the programme has introduced social and eco-standards such as the Rainforest Alliance Certified and UTZ Certified seals for cacao production. The incomes of the 1,500 producers who have been certified so far are now up to 60 per cent higher than the national average, and this benefits a total of 20,000 people in smallholders’ households. In addition, 70 per cent of the promoted enterprises have supported afforestation by integrating over 130,000 shade trees into all into their production systems. The project has introduced educational forests and in doing so has replanted 22 hectares of forest. This has given 3,000 schoolchildren an opportunity to learn about the value of forests and the need for protected areas.

Despite the pressure from increasing use, the management of Taï National Park has been able to secure the park’s conservation status with the aid of its partners. The park management has reclaimed 98 per cent of the area that was previously illegally used for agriculture.