WAP complex: transboundary biosphere reserve

Project description

Title: Transboundary biosphere reserve of the WAP region – Africa supraregional in Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger 
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Devel-opment (BMZ) (with EU cofinancing)
Country: Benin, Burkina Faso, Niger
Lead Executing agency: Benin: Ministère du Cadre de Vie et du Développement Durable (Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development); Burkina Faso: Ministère de l’Environnement, de l’Économie verte et du Changement climatique (Ministry of Environment, Green Economy and Climate Change); Niger: Ministère de l'Environnement et du Développement Du-rable (Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development)
Overall term: 2015 to 2023

Lions in Pendjari Park. Photo: GIZ/Horst Oebel


The W National Park is named after a w-shaped course of the River Niger. It straddles the borders of Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger and is the first transboundary biosphere reserve in Africa. Together with the adjacent Pendjari biosphere reserve in Benin and the Arly nature reserve in Burkina Faso, it constitutes the WAP region. Covering over 30,000 square kilometres, the overall complex is the largest contiguous savannah conservation area in West Africa. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2017. It is home to significant populations of rare wild animal species, some of which are endangered. The relatively intact and diverse savannah that includes wetlands rich in species is unique in its size.

However, poaching activities, some of which are internationally organised, along with poorly regulated cross-border transhumance are two factors increasingly placing the region’s unique biodiversity at risk. The land required by a constantly growing local population puts additional pressure on the protected areas. The park management teams, which have been rather weak up to now, are unable to do much to combat illegal use, and the governments of Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger are not yet able to handle the complex tasks of transboundary management in the entire region on their own.


Protection and sustainable management of the national parks and the fragile ecosystems in the sur-rounding area are strengthened in the W-Arly-Pendjari region (WAP region).

An elephant in the WAP biosphere reserve. Photo: GIZ/Horst Oebel


The project supports the partner ministries in the three countries with the aim of improving protection and environmentally sustainable management in the WAP region. The cooperation focuses on joint efforts to raise the international profile of the World Heritage Site, mobilise funds and introduce modern nature reserve management – in the process incorporating new technologies and methods for combating poaching and monitoring the environment.

A saddle-billed stork. Photo: GIZ/Horst Oebel

Moreover, the three countries seek to further optimise and formalise joint management systems for the five national parks, which are already partially in place. The project team and partners actively involve the people living in the vicinity of the parks in their work and decision-making. The local population thus participates in the management of the protected areas and stands to benefit economically. In addition to protecting biodiversity, the project thereby helps to alleviate poverty in the vicinity of the protected areas.

Part of the funding for the project comes from the European Development Fund.

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