Transboundary biosphere reserve of the WAP region

Project description

Project title: Transboundary biosphere reserve of the WAP region
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Niger
Lead executing agencies: 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 Durable (Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development)
Overall term: 2015 to 2019

Lions in Pendjari Park. Photo: GIZ/Horst Oebel


Named after the w-shaped meander of the Niger River, W Regional Park straddles the borders of Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger and is the first transboundary biosphere reserve in Africa. Together with the Pendjari biosphere reserve in Benin and the Arly nature reserve in Burkina Faso, these three areas constitute the WAP region. Covering over 30,000 square kilometres, the WAP complex is the largest contiguous savannah conservation area in West Africa. As it is home to a significant wildlife population and encompasses a relatively intact and diverse savannah that includes wetlands rich in species, protecting this nature reserve is of global interest. UNESCO has already designated W National Park of Niger as a World Heritage Site.

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

However, internationally organised poaching activities along with poorly regulated cross-border transhumance are two factors increasingly placing the region’s unique biodiversity at risk. These threats are a consequence of weakness in the current system of protection. On their own, the governments of Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger are not yet able to handle the complex tasks of transboundary management in the region.


The conditions for sustainable nature reserve management in the WAP region are improved at local and national level.


The project provides support to the partner ministries in these three countries with the aim of improving the conditions needed to ensure sustainable nature reserve management in the WAP region. The cooperation focuses on joint efforts to raise the international profile of the region as a recognised biosphere reserve, to mobilise funds, and to test new technologies and methods for combating poaching and monitoring the environment.

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

The three partner countries also seek to further optimise and formalise joint management systems for the regional park, which are already partially in place. The project team actively involves the people living in the vicinity of the park in the work being carried out and the decisions being made. The local population thus participates in the management of the reserve and stands to benefit economically. In addition to protecting biodiversity, the project thereby helps to alleviate poverty in the region.