JGI unveils long-term conservation plan for Greater Gombe Ecosystem

Building on the work we’ve been doing in the Kigoma region of Tanzania for the past 15 years, JGI and conservation partners including The Nature Conservancy (TNC) have completed a 30-year plan to guide restoration and preservation of the Greater Gombe Ecosystem (GGE).

JGI worked with other wildlife and conservation experts, NGOs and government representatives in Tanzania to develop a plan that will preserve the ecosystem for the benefit of biodiversity, natural resources and sustainable human livelihoods.

The ecosystem is home to Gombe National Park, site of Jane Goodall’s revolutionary study of chimpanzee behavior. Though the famous Gombe chimpanzee communities are surviving, their habitat (which extends beyond the boundaries of Gombe National Park) has been severely fragmented and diminished in recent decades. Add in other threats including disease, and the long-term survival of these small, isolated chimpanzee populations is anything but certain. The ecosystem supports five chimpanzee groups, three that reside within the boundaries of the park.

In a series of workshops and meetings supported by the US Agency for International Development, JGI and its collaborators – including Kigoma district and regional governments, Kigoma district council and Gombe National Park -- identified and prioritized threats to the ecosystem and strategies to mitigate them.

The leading threats to the ecosystem are:  

  • expansion of human settlements 
  • expansion of agriculture
  • infrastructure development
  • the deliberate killing of chimpanzees by humans
  • lack of conservation and land-use planning, and inadequate implementation of existing land-use plans

In the Kigoma region, these problems are accelerating due to a human population growth rate, 4.8%, which is Tanzania’s highest (Tanzania National Bureau of Statistics 2002).

Critical Problems

As growing human populations in Kigoma region must rely more and more on forest resources to survive, a host of problems ensues, including drying up of watersheds, soil degradation and erosion that can lead to dangerous, even fatal, landslides during rains. Fuel wood for cooking also becomes scarce, forcing women to walk miles daily to reach every-diminishing woodlands.

Given the harsh realities local communities face, any strategies to reduce threats and restore the ecosystem must address their long-term needs as well as environmental and biodiversity concerns. JGI’s Conservation Action Plan identified 18 strategies designed to restore and improve the ecosystem for the benefit of all. Many of these strategies will continue work JGI has undertaken through its Greater Gombe Ecosystem and TACARE projects.

Priority strategies include:

  • Continuing existing and developing new land-use plans in partnership with local communities. JGI, villages and the Tanzanian government use satellite imagery and other data to decide what portion of area land should be set aside for conservation and how other land might be used for environmentally friendly agriculture or other sustainable uses.
  • Raising public awareness through campaigns and education about JGI and GGE conservation goals, especially to promote human-chimpanzee peaceful coexistence
  • Improved agricultural extension services, including training and resources to enable sustainable farming

JGI and collaborators did the threat assessment and strategic planning with TNC as part of a Conservation Action Planning process -- a method TNC developed to plan, implement, and measure success for conservation projects. Other collaborators include Tanzania National Parks, the University of Minnesota, Lincoln Park Zoo, USDA Forest Service, Kwitanga Prison (which manages land on which one of the ecosystem’s five chimpanzee communities live), and Sustainable Harvest.

“In order for us to live harmoniously with nature and for the landscape to meet our increasing needs, we must live in a more sustainable way and protect the natural resources on which our livelihoods depend,” said John K. Mongella, Kigoma District Commissioner. “This document – informed by years of concerted endeavors by ecosystem stakeholders – guides the way for us to achieve that sustainability together.”

The GGE plan will inform development of a comprehensive action plan focused on guaranteeing the long-term survival of chimpanzees in all of Tanzania. JGI is partnering with the Tanzanian government, academia and other NGOs to develop this plan.

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