In 2010 we established our Community Outreach Programme to tackle conservation issues by working with rural communities towards achieving sustainable natural resource management and wildlife conservation. The strategy is to achieve conservation of chimpanzees and their habitat by developing community awareness and guardianship.
Environmental Sensitisation Workshop
Tacugama facilitates workshops in all target communities. First step is to increase knowledge and awareness of chimpanzees as an endangered species, which is protected by the law, and emphasize why they and their habitats should be protected. Basic ecological and environmental concepts such as ecosystems and conservation are therefore big discussion points.
Workshops also look into practical issues and give guidance on the practices of sustainable charcoal burning and fuel wood collection and sustainable agricultural practices like mixed crop farming.
As part of the programme, we believe that conservation intentions alone will usually not lead to conservation action. Therefore, we support the communities in their efforts to achieve more sustainable livelihoods in order to make an impact that will benefit the environment.
We have distributed seed
supplies for more variety in the communities’ farming e.g. supplying
communities with swamp rice to assist locally. This is an alternative to the
upland rice variety, which often requires forest areas to be cleared in order
to plant. The rice also serves to mitigate human-wildlife conflict, because
rice is not susceptible to crop raiding by wildlife.
Communities are also encouraged, with the support of Tacugama, to plant more trees to replace felled trees. Fruit tree saplings are also a source for future crops and can provide income through sale of surplus saplings.
Some communities have received goats or chickens in order to provide the communities with a source of protein alternative to bushmeat. This is necessary in the attempt of decreasing the bush meat hunting. Livestock is also seen as a good investment that can be sold for a profitable price at the local markets.
Lastly, we want to improve the hygiene levels, and minimize bush defecation. Latrines have been constructed in some communities to decrease the risk of disease transmission both to humans and wildlife.
Since the programme has started, the communities we work with are gradually becoming guardians who take an interest in protecting the wildlife and their habitat. It is absolutely necessary to reach out to the communities if we want to stop the biodiversity, including wild chimpanzees, being lost. Currently we work in 33 communities, but have plans of moving into Kambia and Koinadugu Districts in the near future, both because of their location in or around important areas for wild chimpanzees.