The sacred forests of Wèwèrè and Affougoussi, in the communes of Bembèrèkè and Gogounou, are some of Benin’s 2940 sacred forests. Despite their small size, they represent a significant tool for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. They are refugia within the productive landscape for numerous species, providing important benefits to the surrounding productive lands such as pollinating insects and birds. They also serve as in-situ seed banks and genetic reservoirs. Moreover, since these Sacred Forest landscapes have been carefully managed for centuries, their ecosystems and species assemblage are somewhat different from any of the areas currently included in Benin’s system of Protected Areas (PAs), and also different from the cultivated landscapes by which they are surrounded.
Until the recent past, sacred forests were able to maintain the integrity of their resources despite not having legal protection status from the State like the officially-recognized PAs. This is due to the successful model of sustainable traditional management and conservation of biodiversity. Based on strong cultural and religious beliefs, traditional forest management system has proven to be highly effective against forest clearance and forest degradation. The principle of this method of conservation is based on fear and respect for traditional local beliefs, the strength of traditional authorities, the power of dignitaries and religious leaders. However, the power of traditional authorities within the communities is weakening and beliefs are no longer respected. Moreover, climate change, desertification, exploitation of forest resources and poor soil management pose alarming deterioration rates.
To this end, the ICCA-GSI project aims to reduce the anthropogenic pressure on the forest resources through awareness-raising and capacity building initiatives that reconcile biodiversity conservation with economic activities. Planned outcomes of the project include (i) the promotion of alternative income-generating activities compatible with biodiversity conservation such as beekeeping; (ii) good governance of ICCAs aimed at preserving approximately 20 hectares of forest; (iii) increased awareness on the value of ecosystems and strengthened protocols on sustainable use of natural resources to ensure the long-term well-being of the communities within, as well as those bordering, the sacred forests of Wèwèrè and Affougoussi; (iv) regular collaboration of the Wèwèrè and Affougoussi indigenous communities with the ICCA National Consortium to ensure lasting impact of project initiatives; and (v) comprehensive compilation of documentation on ICCA mapping and resource inventory for registration in the UNEP-WCMC global ICCA registry and IUCN’s World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA).
This project started on December 2017 and ends on December 2019. Please visit the project page for more information.