The mountainous region of Kedougou, Senegal bordering Guinea and Mali, is one of the most impoverished areas of Senegal. Farming is a way of life in the region, but many of these farming practices imperil an endangered cohabitant – the West African Chimpanzee. Crafting wooden spears for hunting, using caves as homes, and sharing plant foods, the Western Chimpanzees have demonstrated remarkable behaviors not observed in other subspecies of chimpanzees.
To preserve these dwindling populations, the Jane Goodall Institute Spain (JGI) has led the charge, signing a research, conservation and sustainable development agreement with the Commune of Dindefelo to establish the resident-managed Dindéfélo Community Nature Reserve (RNCD) and provide technical assistance.
Beginning in 2015, Trees for the Future (TREES) entered into a partnership with JGI. The objective of this collaboration aims to improve the food security of the population and, in turn, drastically reduce the pressure on the natural resources of the environment to protect the chimpanzees’ habitat. Our expertise at TREES complements the conservation work done by JGI through training local farmers living along the reserve to plant living fences.
Previously, farmers went into the forest to collect timber to build fences around their plot. Using a technique from our Forest Garden Approach, farmers now plant living fences. This not only prevents the further endangerment of the chimpanzees’ habitat, it also increases the total number of trees in an area that faces risks of desertification. These living fences will also last longer than fences constructed from felled tree, which can be compromised by weather and termites. The fences are comprised of various species, each providing a different service such as protection, security, boundary, shade, as well as repellent for intruding pests. Moreover, fruit trees serving as living fences can also be used as food for families. These fences do not require to be rebuilt every few years in the way traditional fences are, and they grow stronger with time.
Through 2017, the project planted 700,000 trees, impacting 400 people across the villages of Segou, Dandé, Nandoumary, Diogoma, Tanage, Pélel and Boussura. The alternative forests planted by JGI and TREES fulfill the needs of the farmers, so they no longer need to venture into the forest seeking firewood and timber, encroaching on the chimpanzees’ habitat.
In addition to the conservation benefits, the project adds value to the eco-tourism in the region. Situated nearby the Niokolo-Koba National Park, Dindefelo has been able to draw eco-tourists interested in seeing the endangered Western Chimpanzee. As the Dindefelo Community Nature Reserve is managed by the representatives of the local population, they have seen tangible financial benefits of preserving the habitat, and in turn, increased eco-tourism.
Due to this success we have experienced in collaboration with JGI, in 2018 we are exploring the opportunity to expand further into the Sabe village in Guinea, just across the border from this existing project. The project area is a mere 4 km from our site in Dindefelo, Senegal and will be co-managed by our Senegal-based staff, alongside the JGI staff. This year alone, we hope to plant well over 600,000 more trees in the two countries. TREES is happy to be working to reduce pressure on the reserve from the impoverished communities living nearby.
Chimpanzee photo by Sean Brogan for www.awf.org