Planning Leads to Project Success in Côte d'Ivoire

National Staff Assume Management of Mont Péko National Park

February 2003

"With hindsight, I would say that there is nothing we should have done differently."

So says Roger Safford of BirdLife International about the organization's project that has successfully established a nationally driven management and conservation system for Mont Péko National Park in west-central Côte d'Ivoire.

The park benefited from expatriate technical assistance during a previous phase of the project financed by the European Union (EU). With new CEPF funding, the time and conditions were right to transfer more of the management responsibility to the national staff of the field team in Côte d'Ivoire. Today, management of the park is overseen and implemented entirely by Ivorians. This includes general management by the Directorate for Nature Protection, infrastructure development, patrolling, biomonitoring and collaboration with nearby communities.

"We have achieved the gradual transfer of all the basic tasks that it takes to run a protected area," says Safford of BirdLife International's Site Action Unit.

Even as the park's headquarters are located in the city of Duékoué where French soldiers and rebels have clashed in recent weeks, the targeted building of local capacity is hoped to prove key.

"We have given the project the best possible resilience to weather the sorts of conditions that can scupper big environmental projects," Safford says. "The situation is really fluid but everyone is safe, the park is secure and we hope peace will return soon. When it does, we have maximized the chances of the park staff being able to pick up things straight away."

In one key move during the project, BirdLife anticipated a long delay in major follow-up funding from the EU, leading the organization to economize and stretch CEPF funding initially granted to cover six months of activities to a full year. Says Safford: "The CEPF funding allowed us to continue seamlessly with the same team. We couldn't have just kept going with our own internal resources."

The CEPF funds also helped BirdLife leverage additional support for the project from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the United Kingdom for rural development initiatives in communities around the park.

The project made other strides as well. The project team strengthened its collaboration with the National Agency for Support to Rural Development (ANADER), the first between ANADER and a national park and now a model planned for the future in the country's other parks. Regular biomonitoring revealed sight records of two new species for the park: black duiker, a forest antelope; and Pel's anomalure, a type of flying rodent.

A new phase of the project is now being implemented by a BirdLife and Conservation International alliance with EU funding and will focus on strengthening more technical or scientific aspects of park management. The project will also expand to cover Marahoué National Park and Mont Nimba, two other important biodiversity sites in Côte d'Ivoire and the Upper Guinean Forest—the focus of CEPF's strategy in the Guinean Forests of West Africa hotspot.