Past, present and future perspectives


In response to loss of natural habitat in Central Africa, the network of protected areas has been expanded though creation of new areas and extension of existing nationally protected areas, and through the creation of protected areas of international significance, such as Biosphere Reserves and Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar sites). Protected areas in the tropical forest of the Congo basin amount to 6 per cent of the total forest area, and include the rainforest refuge areas of the Korup National Park, Mount Cameroon and Dja Forest Reserve (Cameroon); the Crystal Mountains (Gabon); Maika National Park and Salonga National Park (DRC); and the Mayombe Forest Reserve (DRC and Congo) (IUCN, WWF & GTZ 2000). The Youndé Declaration-a 12-point resolution on the conservation and sustainable management of the forests of the Congo Basin-was signed, in 1999, by the heads of state of Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon. Under its guidance, the Sangha Park has been created, linking the protected areas of Lobeke National Park in Cameroon, the Dzanga-Sangha in the Central African Republic, the Nouabale-Ndoki Park in Congo, and production forests and hunting zones surrounding each of these areas. This is one of the first efforts at a coordinated approach to forest resource conservation, through harmonization of the laws and policies of the six countries, and coordination of patrolling for illegal activities. Nationally and internationally protected areas in Central Africa are shown in Table 2b.13 and Table 2b.14 respectively.

Table 2b.13 Protected areas in Central Africa
Terrestrial   Marine
Country Number Area (000 ha) % land area Number
Cameroon 18 2 098 4.4  
Central African Republic 13 5 110 8.2  
Chad 9 11 494 9.0  
Democratic Rep Congo 15 10 191 4.3 1
Congo 9 1 545 4.5 1
Equatorial Guinea 0 0 0.0 4
Gabon 5 723 2.7 4
Total 69 31 161 33.1 10

Data not available for SwazilandData not available for Sao Tome & Principe

Source:World Bank 2001a

Table 2b.14 Internationally protected areas in Central Africa
Biosphere Reserves* World Heritage Sites Ramsar Sites
Country Number Area (000 ha) Number Area (000 ha) Number Area (000 ha)
Cameroon 3 850 1 526 0  
Central African Republic 2 1 640 1 1 740 0  
Chad 0   0 0 2 1 843
Congo 2 246 0   1 439
Democratic Rep Congo 3 283 5 6 855 2 866
Equatorial Guinea 0   0   0 0
Gabon 1 15 0 0 3 1 080
Total 11 3 034 7 9 121 8 4 228

Data not available for Sao Tome & Principe. *Some Biosphere Reserves may also be World Heritage Sites or Ramsar sites

Source: Ramsar 2002, UNDP and others 2000,UNESCO 2002

However, protected areas in Central Africa are reportedly still experiencing degradation, mainly as a result of poor enforcement of protection regulations. Logging activities, bushmeat poaching, agriculture, and oil exploration regularly encroach on protected areas. For example forest concessions have been granted in Gabon in the La Lopé Wildlife Reserve, the Wonga Wongé Presidential Reserve, and in the Monkalaba and Offoué Reserves, where logging activities are affecting at least 50 per cent of the protected areas (IUCN, WWF & GTZ 2000).

Click to enlarge

Mayombe rainforest reserve, Congo

Michel Gunther/Still Pictures

Patrolling of reserves in the sub-region is also desperately under-resourced, with rates as low as one guard per 35 000 hectares in Congo (IUCN, WWF & GTZ 2000). Other constraints on management of protected areas include war and civil conflict, lack of an integrated management vision, high demand for bushmeat from urban areas and the international market, inadequate staff, equipment, and infrastructure for patrolling and enforcement of regulations, and inadequate involvement or exclusion of local communities in protected area management.

Steps towards rectifying this situation include projects implemented in conjunction with WWF to protect the Black Rhino in the northern savannas of Cameroon, and to create awareness and sustainable rates of bushmeat hunting in Gabon, by establishing quotas and using local people as patrol guards. Central African countries have also ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity, confirming their commitment to protecting biological resources. They have also formulated a sub-regional Plan of Convergence for Forests of Central Africa (Plan de Convergence) which was validated by the first Conference of Ministers in Charge of Forests at its December 2000 session. In the context of this sub-regional plan, each member country was to draw up its own emergency action plan (Plan d'Action d'Urgence) for the forestry sector. Institutional and legal frameworks for conservation have also been established-for example, the National Programme for Environmental Management (Programme National de Gestion de l'Environnement). National Environmental Action Plans (NEAPs), forestry laws, and environmental management laws are other measures that countries have introduced. National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs) have also been developed for many Central African countries, and sub-regional initiatives such as Global Environment Facility (GEF) Biodiversity projects, the Ecosystèmes Forestiers d'Afrique Centrale (ECOFAC) programme, and the Central Africa Regional Program for the Environment (CARPE) have been launched. ECOFAC has been very active in assessment of biological resources, legislation pertaining to use of the resources, traditional methods of resource management, and in making recommendations for protection of various habitats under different types of management (such as recommendations for National Parks, Ramsar sites, and agro-forestry projects). CARPE is a long-term initiative funded by USAID and aimed at identifying the necessary conditions for reducing deforestation in the Congo Basin. This will be achieved through gathering of baseline information on the forest resources and threats to the ecosystem, establishing monitoring programmes, and building capacity amongst decision makers. To date a vast array of reports, maps, and briefing notes have been published.