People and nature alike benefit from local management

Increased population pressure drove local farmers into Mole National Park to hunt and harvest timber. The elephants and leopards in Ghana’s largest nature reserve became victims of this development. With the support of IUCN NL, the local population has been able to discover that the park can yield greater revenue if the local environment is maintained sustainably. Nowadays, local villagers are actively involved in the ongoing conservation of the reserve.

Header photo: (c) A picture of the Shea tree taken by Marco Schmidt

Mole National Park

Mole National Park is Ghana’s largest nature reserve and home to elephants, antelopes, buffalo, and various monkey species. The villages surrounding the park have a combined population of several thousand people, and local population growth means more and more farmland is needed to provide for everyone. At the same time, the soil’s resources become exhausted as a result of non-sustainable practices such as slash-and-burn farming. To continue to be able to provide for their families, local inhabitants venture into the park to hunt, harvest timber or let their cattle graze there. The resulting impact on the flora and fauna, in turn, leads to a decrease in tourists and revenue from tourism for the region.

Local residents key to security

The key to the solution lays in actively involving the local population in the protection of the park. Our Ghanaian partner organisation, A Rocha, achieved this by establishing CREMAs, or Community Resource Management Areas – areas on the outskirts of the park which are managed by local communities. The first two CREMAs were established in 2007, lining the southeast border of Mole Park. The villages of Kaden and Yazoli were given responsibility for management of these areas, comprising approximately 40,000 hectares each. A Rocha trained villagers to quickly recognise and report illegal activities, such as the trade in bushmeat or the felling of trees. They also learned techniques to make stretches of previously barren land flourish again. In addition, microcredits enabled people to start up several small businesses. For example, A Rocha trained 600 women in organically cultivating shea trees for the harvest and sale of shea tree butter, a popular product in the cosmetics industry.

Economic boost for the area

These start-ups have now grown into successful small businesses. A number of families in Kaden and Yazoli are able to earn a living as beekeepers or by organising walking safaris for tourists. In this way, the park is able to give the local economy a direct boost. The sale of shea butter, too, has been a tremendous success: the 600 women involved with the project have seen their incomes double.

The fact that the local inhabitants now have a sufficient income means they no longer have to breach the boundaries of the park. In fact, they take pride in Mole’s natural riches and are actively involved in their protection. Now that the park is able to generate revenue for them, they have a vested interest in the preservation of the natural landscape. The improved conservation has reaped visible benefits: vegetation in the CREMAs is richer than in the surrounding areas and wildlife is returning to these zones. Thanks to the success of the first two CREMAs, IUCN NL was able to contribute to the establishment of two further management areas of 60,000 hectares each in 2011. Here, too, local communities are closely involved in the preservation of the area and are able to explore new, innovative sources of revenue.

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Jan Kamstra
no longer working at IUCN NL