Community-Led Conservation: New Insights and Impact in Guinea and Burundi

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Following in our founder’s footsteps, the Jane Goodall Institute has always acted based on the knowledge that people, non-human animals, and the environment are connected. Our approach to conservation is community-led, which means that we work with local communities to empower sustainable development and conservation decision-making, which improves well-being for people, the environment, and wildlife.  Across the chimpanzee range, JGI is working with communities to develop solutions that are individualized to the threats facing them and their areas. Guinea and Burundi are two examples of how very different approaches can provide new steps forward in the effort to better understand effective conservation tactics, and how collaboration leads to greater impact for all.

Biomonitoring Program in Guinea 

Guinea hosts the largest population of West African chimpanzee subspecies in the world. It also hosts some of the most interesting and promising arenas for species coexistence. In 2019, JGI’s Great Ape Conservation Director Dr. Marc Fourrier, and the JGI Spain/Senegal Research team developed a protocol on sampling design, data collection methodology, and data management for a biomonitoring program in three pilot sites for the Chimpanzee Coexistence Project in the Fouta Djallon, Guinea (funded by Biotope and Arcus Foundation as well as JGI USA). The project aims to better understand human-wildlife interactions and advance sustainable agroforestry and natural resource management practices, particularly in important chimpanzee sites in the northern mountains.  

Over five months, JGI staff worked to collaborate on the protocol and the best methodology for the biomonitoring project. As of 2020, the monitoring teams began implementing the protocol in three key chimpanzee/coexistence sites. To advance this work, JGI conducted a training for 12 community monitors to implement the sampling protocol, and these newly trained technicians collected data on chimpanzee presence in the three sites for nearly two months before the project had to shut down temporarily during the pandemic. Integrating our science and technology framework, data is collected via mobile phones that systematize the information which can then be entered into a cloud-based platform, for analysis and management. These important efforts aim to resume in 2021.  

Conservation and Collaboration in Burundi 

Over 90% of the Burundian population is directly dependent on natural resources, especially among the rural population. Unfortunately, there are numerous pressures and direct threats to forests, protected areas, and biodiversity. These threats put the Batwa people who depend on the forest in conflict with the chimpanzees who live there.  

In 2020, JGI continued to support the local NGO Conservation and Community of Change (3C) to implement the “Project for Rescue of Chimpanzees and their Habitats and Promotion of Community Conservation.” Through this project, JGI provided school supplies to 50 Batwa children, six rainwater tanks for handwashing to schools, and three tree nurseries to local nature reserves. Additionally, in the vicinities around the reserves, environmental education activities helped raise awareness among officials to encourage them to continue supporting the protection of chimpanzees and their habitat, including demarcating boundaries of protected landscapes. 

While there’s still work to be done, understanding how humans interact with the wildlife around them is the first step towards community-centered conservation. Learn more about JGI’s community-led impact at janegoodall.org/impact20. 

About Author

Ashley Sullivan is the Associate Director of Communications & Partnerships at the Jane Goodall Institute USA, where she works to connect individuals with Dr. Jane Goodall's vision, and the JGI mission to create a better world for all by protecting the interconnections between people, other animals, and the environment. Ashley graduated Stony Brook University with a Bachelor's Degree in Anthropology and a minor in Biology, and is currently a Master's of Science Candidate for Environmental Science & Policy at Johns Hopkins University with a focus on Environmental Justice. Originally from Brooklyn, New York, now a D.C. resident, she has a varied background including nearly 10 years of expert communications and digital marketing in the social and environmental non-profit sector. Her intersectional approach to this work has been shaped by a holistic world-view, having traveled to Madagascar and Ecuador for conservation research projects, leading communications for youth social justice filmmaking programs, and as a part of several professional groups advancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in environmental spaces. With skills ranging from conservation fieldwork, policy and advocacy campaigns, strategic communications, art, digital media, and design, Ashley believes in sharing information to empower and in the magic of storytelling to change hearts and minds. Through growing understanding, empathy, and justice, she is igniting positive change to create that better, more equitable world, every day.