Transboundary biosphere reserve connects people and nature

In the densely populated delta of the Mono river on the border of Togo and Benin conflicts arose between humans and hippopotamus. The already small population of this threatened species dropped from around hundred in 2006, to only 30. In order to reduce human wildlife conflict and protect the remaining hippos in the area, IUCN NL worked with local partner organizations, the German development agency GIZ and the authorities of both countries to create the Mono Transboundary Biosphere Reserve. The reserve, which was recognized by UNESCO in 2017, safeguards a mosaic of different ecosystems with many rare and often threatened species.

Problem

The delta of the Mono river on the border of Togo and Benin is rich in nature and provides, among other things, the habitat for a population of threatened hippos. The area is also home to around 2 million people, who grow their crops on the riverbanks or depend on fisheries. This led to regular human wildlife conflict and retaliations. As a result, there are only 30 hippos remaining in the area. The threat to hippos reflects a much wider pressure on unique natural habitats and species in this delta.

Approach

In order to protect the remaining hippos in the area and safeguard the delta’s high biodiversity, cross border cooperation between the two countries was needed. We therefore worked together with the German development agency GIZ, the Beninese and Togolese authorities and local partner organizations to create the Mono Transboundary Biosphere Reserve. The residents are responsible for sustainable management of the reserve, in accordance with local customs based on their knowledge and traditions.

Result

In 2017, the transboundary reserve of approximately 3,500 km2 was declared a UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Reserve. It is the only biosphere reserve in Africa where the majority of the core conservation areas is managed by communities. The reserve not only protects the habitat of the hippopotamus but also protects endangered forest, swamp and coastal ecosystems and the species living there. Moreover, thanks to sustainable management, it provides the residents with sufficient timber, food and water.

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