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Signing Reciprocal Environmental Agreements

Local NGOs APGS, FCTV, TFRD, with technical support from international NGOs RAZS-CRC, AWF, and Landscape Conservation, have now come to an agreement with villagers in the local villages to conserve biodiversity in and around the Dja Faunal Reserve.  Under the terms of these ‘reciprocal environmental agreements’ (REA), each villager involved in the project receives technical and material support for two things: generating income; and accessing legal, sustainable sources of animal protein.   In return, he or she agrees to conserve biodiversity through using only legal hunting and management of income and protein sources. The events on the 25th and 26th July 2018 marked the signature of the agreements by villagers and NGOs.

During the events, the villagers played drums, sang and dance to welcome the project team to their communities.  The NGOs introduced the signing event and reminded the people that the agreement is individual and voluntary, and no one could sign on behalf of someone else. They were asked to wait and sign during the next event (probably next year) if they are not ready.

Villagers requested for the document to be read out loud, to confirm that its the one they have been working on. It was read out again, each point fully explained.  Some of the people asked questions related to the agreement and received answers. 

Documents were signed under two agreements: fishing farming and cocoa farming.  Each villager involved in fish farming signed four copies of each REA; each villager involved in cocoa farming did the same.

What the villagers have committed to (extract from an REA).  Read the full text here (in French)

Villagers committed to stop poaching by:

  • Not lodging poachers in their homes
  • Not keeping or using illegal guns
  • Not commercialising illegal bush meat
  • Not killing or consuming protected species without authorisation from conservation authorities

They also committed to manage income and fishing activities sustainably by:

For fishing;

  • Not fishing in reproduction areas of fish species, during non fishing periods and not fishing fish of less than 10 cm long (the length of an adult hand)
  • Presenting to members of the common initiative group or the Darwin project team the monthly quantity of fish fished or sold
  • Not fishing with chemical products or with equipment not recommended such as baskets, traps and nets having mesh size of less than 40mm
  • Using safety life jackets during fishing
  • Continuing to renew fishing material offered to the common initiative group by the Darwin project
  • Transforming and conserving fish for sale in accordance with recommended standards
  • Not going for fishing in a drunken state or with a poor health condition

For cocoa farming;

  • Enrich their plantations with fruit trees to have a good canopy level
  • Conserve ecosystems by creating buffer zones around plantations
  • Properly clean plantations and regularly do sanitary harvests
  • Dig holes to manage waste and dirty water
  • Maintain the ground cover and avoid any activities that destroy the soil such as bush fire
  • Use phytosanitary products in a reasonable manner and keep them away from children
  • Protect themselves with protective equipment when applying phytosanitary products
  • Ensure the education of children by sending them to school and avoiding any form of exploitation of children
  • Differentiate between certified and uncertified cocoa and sell it only to the cooperative
  • Participate in the micro-zoning process which aims to identify and delimit the zones used by villagers, in order to maintain an ecosystem or coexist in harmony with humans and animals.
  • To respect the different land uses in the zones.
  • To collaborate in a participatory way with the Conservation Service and its partners in the framework of the consultation platform (Nkomlo) to resolve human-wildlife conflict issues.
  • Collaborate with TF-RD and AWF during participatory mapping activities and implementation of anti-poaching strategies.

 

How we will measure progress

Obviously there needs to be a ‘win-win’ result for people and wildlife, otherwise the project will not be able to achieve the triple-bottom-line sustainability it needs to continue in the long term.  To understand the impact the project is making, we need to measure various outcomes.  These key performance indicators (kpi) will be identified through:

  • Bush meat offtake surveys (monitoring and evaluation) will confirm a reduction in the quantity of bushmeat hunted, reduction in the hunting effort of villagers, utilisation of bushmeat (consumption or commercialisation), different species hunted, and other information relevant to hunting activities
  • Visits by project team and data collection will confirm proper management of income and fishing activities
  • Household socioeconomic surveys will confirm a positive change in livelihoods of villagers.

 

Expected impacts

Based on both parties meeting their commitments under the agreements, we anticipate two main impacts:

  • Wildlife populations in the Dja Faunal Reserve conserved (including species threatened with extinction such as the great apes, pangolins, dwarf crocodiles, amongst others)
  • Livelihoods of villagers ameliorated through an increase in revenue generated and a reduction in poverty illustrated by several kpi

 

Sub impacts include:

  • Increase income from income activity
  • More available fish for local consumption and commercialisation
  • Reduction in bushmeat offtake
  • Reduction in bushmeat commercialisation
  • Increase in wildlife population in forest

 

Overall, out of approximately 1,650 women and girls and 1,300 men and boys that live in the northern buffer zone of the DFR, some 250 REA were signed, representing around 80% of the households that live in the villages.  We are confident that those who did not wish to take part in the project will see that there is significant benefit and will take part later in the programme.

Donald Mbohli, In-country Coordinator for APGS, and Project Manager for the Darwin Initiative project expressed his delight at the success of the signing event:

“I have worked with communities living around the DFR for many years now. It is a real delight to me that after such a time we have built up the trust and confidence with the people that live here to such an extent that we are now working in close partnership, with good harmony, to support the wildlife of the area and the wonderful people that live here. “

See Donald’s blog on the event here, although with other blogs on the project.