“In 2016, I earned CFAF 249,500 (roughly $410) from the sale of 13 sheep. The following year I sold 17 sheep for CFAF 310,000 and I still have 56 in my sheep pen. Today, sheep rearing has become my main activity and I spend all day with my animals in the pasture,” he stated.
Loana is no longer tempted to poach in the Pendjari National Park, as he did before, to supplement his monthly income. Thanks to his stable income, he can also take better care of his children for whom he built a small house 60 kilometers from Tanguiéta, where they are pursuing their secondary education. “My success encourages many people to get involved in this activity. I now take care of my own sheep and those of other farmers in the village. I train them and I have become a kind of veterinarian,” he explained.
The funding Loana received is part of the income-generating activities (IGA) initiative introduced by the PAGAP in 2011, for the benefit of communities in the vicinity of national parks. The project seeks to combat poaching and reduce the pressure exerted by human activity on the biosphere. From an overall amount of CFAF 4.8 billion ($8.9 million) the project has already disbursed more than CFAF 247 million to finance 66 micro-projects for communities near the Pendjari and W Parks.
The project team intends to continue these efforts and finance a second series of initiatives. They have received more than 1,000 micro-project proposals and examined the feasibility of some 510 proposals selected for the Pendjari Park and 659 others for the W Park. In the end, 39 and 49 micro-projects were selected and approved, respectively. “The idea was to create alternative sources of income for adjacent communities so that they could eventually reduce the pressure they exert on park resources. Antoine Loana’s experience is quite edifying and has demonstrated to the other villagers the benefit of promoting economic activities instead of depending on the reserve,” said Eliassou Hamidou Séko, PAGAP’s coordinator.
The entrepreneurial spirit of this shepherd in Coallegou has also attracted the attention of Katrina Sharkey, World Bank Country Manager for Benin. “I was impressed by Antoine’s initiative, his appreciation of the local environment, and the structures he improved in order to house his animals. He was able to send his children to school in Tanguiéta and provide them with decent housing to guarantee them a better future,” she stated, noting that the residents adjacent to the park have now taken ownership of these initiatives and wish to make them permanent. “It’s interesting to see that the people who have benefited from them are ready to replicate their experiences and share them with other communities adjacent to the park. This is very important and this aspect of the project needs to be further strengthened to ensure the survival and development of the species for which the park is renowned among visitors and tourists,” she concluded.
Experiences like Loana’s are now being replicated in other villages, for example, the creation of the Tibassiti Yain group of honey producers in the village of Chafarga and the Tossoma cooperative of market gardeners in the village of Tchanwassaga.
“These examples of successful implementation of the PAGAP reassure us and prove that the financing of alternative activities, chosen by the communities themselves, is a perfect initiative to reduce anthropogenic pressure on parks. The results on the ground are palpable, and communities have told us that their new economic activities serve to deter them from poaching in the park,” asserted Salimata Diallo Follea, the PAGAP Task Team Leader at the World Bank.
Since the implementation of the IGAs, Pendjari Park authorities have seen a marked decline in poaching and other environmental degradation. On many trails in the reserve, warthogs, elephants, sable antelopes, and Buffon’s kobs observe visitors unperturbed. A regular visitor to the park noted that that it would have been impossible to see the animals so close to the park roads five years ago.
“Income-generating activities have undoubtedly reduced pressures on the park. Today, whenever you are in contact with our wildlife, you get the sense that a certain serenity has returned. What is referred to as the flight distance in our technical jargon (the distance that animals keep between themselves and a threat of danger) no longer exists. Trust has been restored between wildlife and humans,” rejoices Boukari Warakpe, General Director of the National Center for Wildlife Management [Centre national de gestion des ressources naturelles CENAGREF].