Making-a-difference in West Africa – Community-based chimpanzee conservation in Guinea Bissau

By Tamara Oliveira

West African Chimpanzee. Photo credit: Kay H. Farmer.

Chimbo is a Dutch foundation committed to maintaining and where necessary, to restore the chimpanzee population and habitat in West Africa. Currently, the foundation focuses on the Boé, an isolated sector of Guinea-Bissau.

Guinea-Bissau is a West African country that borders the Atlantic Ocean to the west, Senegal to the east and Guinea (Conakry) to the south. With a surface area of 36,000 km², Guinea-Bissau is a little larger than the Netherlands. Its population consists of about 1.6 million people (UN, 2009) and the official language is Portuguese.

The country is divided in 7 regions. One of them is Gabú. The South-Eastern sector of Gabu is called The Boé. An extremely poor, isolated and sparsely populated sector with about 12,000 people living in 85 villages. The Boé is a place where more than 90% of the population lives on less than € 1 a day. There is no famine; however, the inhabitants are very dependent upon what they find in nature during certain seasons.

The Boé is a region that is difficult to access. Thanks to its isolated character, nature has remained practically untouched. The Boé has a relatively large chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes verus) population; it also has a number of other species of mammals that are on the list of endangered species.

This is where Chimbo has been based for the past 8 years; working hard to fulfil its mission that involves research, community based conservation, education, sustainable tourism, and stakeholder management.

Nature faces many existing threats in the Boé such as poaching, illegal hunting methods used, harmful bush fires, fast population growth leading to human-wildlife conflicts, habitat loss especially of forests, and future threats: bauxite mining, and road construction.

Some of the current projects and activities of Chimbo in the Boé are:

  • A long  term chimpanzee survey executed by CVV’s (Village Vigilance Committees)
  • A chimpanzee survey of a site in the Boé according to the PANAF protocol of MPI, Leipzig
  • Alternative income generation for local women through horticulture
  • Ebola information sessions
  • Bird biodiversity survey
  • Cereal banks establishment / assisted management
  • Eco-volunteering opportunities
  • Development of eco-tourism including the necessary infrastructure

Tamara Oliveira is Program Manager at the Chimbo Foundation in Guinea Bissau.