The Mano River Union Ecosystem Conservation and International Water Resources Management Project, funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) is implemented by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and executed by the Mano River Union (MRU). The project aims to promote comprehensive approaches to integrated ecosystem management and to design participatory and community strategies that will lead to conservation and sustainable use of soil, water and biota in river basins and on their watersheds. Four countries namely Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea Conakry, Liberia and Sierra Leone benefit from the project activities.
The project is being executed in Guinea by the Center Forestier de N’zérékoré, as the National Executing Agency (NEA) on behalf of the Guinean Government. The intervention site for integrated ecosystem management is located on the outskirts of the protected areas of Ziama, Nimba and Diecké.
For the integrated management of ecosystems, the project intends to ensure the restoration of the productivity of tree-based systems and to promote the use of best practices. Thus the project identified and set up learning plots to support and strengthen the various tree components in existing farming systems.
The process of identifying farmers and learning plots
- The project identified farmers following the participatory and inclusive process in order to guarantee the principle of legality and legitimacy as a governance framework before the identification of farmers and learning plots. This process started in 2018 as part of a mission that the NEA organized from April 27 to May 07, 2018. The objective of this mission was to assess and revitalize the village planning committees set up by the Forest Center in 1995 around the Ziama reserve and the classified forest of Diecké. The shortcomings related to the representativeness of certain social actors such as gender within existing committees made it possible to set up new local advisory committees of Ziama from May 28 to 29, 2018; of Nimba from May 30 to 31, 2018 and of Diecké from June 1 to 2, 2018. The new committees set up therefore take into account the gender aspect of which women represent 45.73% of the members against 25% in the old committees.
As part of the evaluation of restoration opportunities, another mission was organized from January 22 to 26, 2020 to inform and raise awareness among local communities. This mission covered eight (08) districts including four (04) in Ziama (Sedimaï, Kpoda, Yézou and Noborotono), two (02) in Diecké (Dourapa and Gbeleye) and two (02) in Nimba (Gbaah and Gbènèmou) selected to benefit from school fields.
The national coordination unit and the NEA with the collaboration of the consultant, the Agronomic Research Institute of Guinea / Regional Agronomic Research Center of Forest Guinea (IRAG / CRRA-GF) (IRAG) held a meeting on February 07, 2020, to start nursery installation activities and topographical surveys of learning plots in the 08 districts. This resulted in training of 513 farmers, including 277 women, in nursery installation techniques, monitoring and above all the creation of learning or demonstration plots. All the technical operations took place to allow the farmers to reproduce them in their own fields. The tree and forest species that each community needs have been listed and ranked in order of importance. The different communities suggested that they be allowed to supervise memberships and ensure that no previously identified peasants are excluded and ensure that the living conditions of all are improved. The list of peasants by village was given to the partner responsible for implementing the activity and the choice of sites immediately began.
Securing learning plots
The elders and customary chiefs, landowners and custodians of local knowledge of the various villages concerned have made the areas available purposely for the installation of learning plots. Discussions with stakeholders resulted in the production of a donation certificate template for the benefit of communities. This approach has the advantage of avoiding conflicts over land use, and future claims, especially between landowners and their communities over the use of the income from each learning plot.
To date, the donation certificates for the eight (8) learning plots have been regularly signed by all administrative and political authorities, customary chiefs and notables. These plots have been geo-referenced and maps will be produced to locate them.
In order to produce this legal document, the NEA and the IRAG / CRRA-GF proceeded from March 16 to April 10, 2020, to the signating of various donation certificates. This signing was preceded by a campaign to mobilize and engage communities in the eight (08) districts: Sédimaï, Yézou, Kpoda and Noborotono (Ziama), Gbèleye and Dourapa (Diecké), Gbaah, Gbènèmou (Nimba).
The donation certificates stipulate that “The Products or any other advantages resulting from this field are property of the entire community, under the management of the local authorities (local advisory committee) legally established and recognized by the community concerned”.
During this community mobilization campaign followed by the commitment of the landowners, an explanatory process was undertaken so that the village communities, including the administrative and traditional authorities, understand the scope of this commitment made by the landowners.
The communities were able to understand that the products or any other advantage resulting from these fields are the property of the entire community, under the management of the local consultative committee legally established and recognized by the community concerned. This approach strengthens the involvement of local stakeholders in the management of the national forest ecosystem.
One of the goals of the project is that ecological benefits are sustained and livelihoods improved for communities adjacent to forests, which will lead to increased forest cover and associated benefits both at local and sub Regional levels.
In light of the benefits communities derive from this level of involvement, through their mandates, in the different localities, expressed their deep gratitude for this offer which reassures them and pushes them to more commitment to support the activities of the project in many ways. The signing of donation certificates is an act that reflects the commitment and participation of communities in the sustainability of the GEF project in the area of the MRU, and particularly in Forest Guinea.