Conservation International, in partnership with international aluminum producers Alcoa and Alcan, and national environmental group Guinée Ecologie, co-hosted a two-day multi-stakeholder workshop in June to form an action plan for conserving biodiversity in the Boké prefecture of Guinea.
Representatives from the Ministers of Environment and Mines and Geology gave opening addresses at the workshop, followed by presentations on the importance of biodiversity in the region, its socio-economic situation, and existing conservation initiatives underway in the area.
“Alcoa and Alcan are supporting the efforts of Conservation International and Guinée Ecologie in an effort to better understand the environment in the Boké prefecture where we are looking to site a bauxite refinery,” says Ibrahima Danso, managing director of Alcoa Guinea. “By working with these organizations and others, Alcoa and Alcan hope to minimize any negative environmental impacts of the refinery, as well as make a lasting contribution to the sustainable development of the region.”
Prior to the workshop, Conservation International (CI) and Guinée Ecologie conducted an initial biodiversity assessment of the area. Concurrently, Alcoa and Alcan have been conducting a Sustainability Assessment, looking at the socio-economic context of the region and how its operations will impact the surrounding communities.
“CI believes it is important to engage the private sector in our mission to conserve global biodiversity, given both the threats and opportunities they present to achieving our desired conservation outcomes,” says Jessica Donovan, Manager of CI’s West Africa program. “In Guinea, we hope that CI and Guinée Ecologie’s work with Alcoa and Alcan will catalyze positive change in the Boké region, giving interested parties an opportunity to frame biodiversity conservation action in the area.”
With funding from Alcoa and Alcan, CI and Guinée Ecologie also recently completed a biological survey examining the flora and fauna of several sites within the Boké prefecture. The scientific team included experienced tropical biologists from both foreign and West African institutions, including eight Guinean experts.
The surveys focused in the Rio Kapatchez, Kamsar and Sangaredi areas, and in some cases represented the first biological surveys in nearly 50 years. While the habitats surveyed appeared heavily impacted by human activity, several important species were observed, including a rare crab species recorded at only one other site globally, species from the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, and numerous species never before recorded in Guinea.
Findings from the survey and feedback from the workshop will be used to formulate a biodiversity action plan for Boké prefecture.
“Guinée Ecologie appreciates the efforts of Alcoa and Alcan in helping the Boké prefecture to create a plan of action that will protect the biodiversity in our region,” said Mamadou Saliou Diallo, program co-coordinator for Guinée Ecologie. “And this plan, we believe, also can be used to create a national strategy that will protect our country’s biodiversity.”
The Upper Guinea forest ecosystem, which includes several West African countries including Guinea, once covered an estimated 420,000 square kilometers. Centuries of human activity have resulted in the loss of nearly 70 percent of the original forest cover. The remaining Upper Guinea forest is restricted to a number of isolated patches that are refuges for the region's unique species, including the chimpanzee and pygmy hippopotamus.
Guinea also has one of the world’s largest bauxite reserves, which represent a major economic activity for the country and its people. Bauxite ore is a key ingredient in the manufacturing of aluminum. The refinery will support local economic activity in Guinea, and prevent the need for prevent the need for shipping as much of the country’s raw bauxite to refineries in other parts of the world.