Tropical rainforests harbor 90% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity. However, forests are disappearing at a rate of 14 million hectares per annum (source: FAO). Due to the irreversibility of species extinction and habitat loss, this rampant depletion of our biodiversity exerts a terrible toll on both the natural and economic worlds -- affecting both current and future generations. The loss of suitable habitat is one of the greatest threats to the long-term survival of chimpanzees and other great apes.
To satisfy basic needs, local communities are forced to use forest resources in an unsustainable fashion. Conversion to intensive agriculture, shifting cultivation, poaching and the trade in bushmeat, together with unsustainable illegal industrial and informal logging, mining and oil extraction all reduce forest cover and destroy biodiversity.
Population growth, immigration, the demand for higher standards of living and increasing demand at the global level for forest and extractive industry products, particularly with the rapid development that China is experiencing, all increase the pressures on forests. We must maintain forests so that they continue to ensure biodiversity and play their role as the lungs of the earth for future generations.
JGI’s village-managed forest reserves provide a regulated long-term means of protecting forest. JGI is linking these village reserves together into a mosaic that eventually will provide increased habitat for Gombe’s famous chimpanzees and other wildlife throughout the Greater Gombe Ecosystem.
Conservation Action Planning
JGI works closely with local, regional and national entities, including community-based organizations and host governments in landscape-scale conservation action planning to identify threats and the actions needed to mitigate them. Guided by The Nature Conservancy’s Conservation Action Planning (CAP) methodology, we provide for and assist stakeholders in the use of satellite imaging and participatory mapping techniques to implement land-use planning processes. These tools provide JGI and its local partners with the scientific basis for making decisions about land use and conservation actions.
We help to establish Village Land-Use Planning Committees and provide them with the data and guidance to develop systems, frameworks, and by-laws that support coordinated land-use management. JGI also supports the creation of inter-village organizations that focus on natural resources, including managing forest reserves created by the Village Land-Use Committees, as well as community-development issues. These committees work to integrate planning activities across the targeted landscape, advocate for collective village interests with regional and national authorities, and seek funding for multi-village initiatives from local and international donors.
Demonstration and Training
Additionally, JGI’s demonstration forest management project at Kitwe, near Kigoma, Tanzania, provides an example of the potential for recovery of degraded miombo woodland, while also serving as a “living classroom” in agro-forestry issues and water source protection. JGI also trains community members to manage tree nurseries in all project villages.
Conservation isn’t possible in the face of poverty, disease, high population growth and lack of education opportunities. While some feel strongly that the only effective way to achieve conservation in developing countries is to establish protected areas only, and to keep people out of these areas by any means necessary, we’ve found that this approach is not the most effective, and can be self-defeating in protecting and managing natural resources. Communities and/or individuals experiencing food insecurity and limited livelihood options will do what is necessary to survive. If that means cutting down the forest for firewood, clearing forest cover for subsistence agriculture, and hunting the species of the forest to satisfy their protein needs or for the bushmeat trade, fences and/or eco-guards alone will not keep them out of protected areas. Our philosophy and approach is to work with communities contiguous to these areas to help them meet their economic and social needs through a conservation approach where they can both economically benefit from the sustainable use of natural resources and understand the value of conservation to their daily lives.