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MEA Bulletin - Guest Article No. 93a - Thursday, 27 May 2010
CMS and the Sahelo-Saharan Conservation Project in Niger
By UNEP/CMS Secretariat
The Termit massif and the large adjacent erg of Tin Toumma in Niger can be considered as one of the remaining hotspots for biodiversity in the Sahara, with 30 species of mammals, over 100 species of birds and some rare reptiles. The site is particularly remarkable because it harbors the last viable population of addax, now the rarest antelope in the world with less than 300 individuals living in the wild. It also hosts one of the last populations of Dama gazelle, as well as Saharan cheetah, Barbary sheep, striped hyena, caracal, lappet faced vulture and spurred tortoise, among other species.

A project for the study and conservation of biodiversity in the area of Termit-Tin Toumma, funded by the French Fund for the Environment (FFEM) and the EU, is being implemented in partnership with the Sahara Conservation Fund. On 4-12 May 2010, the Scientific and Technical Officer of Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), Borja Heredia, and Scientific Councillor, Roseline Beudels, convener of the Terrestrial Mammals Working Group, visited the project and met the team that is implementing the different components in the field. The project’s main objectives are the following:

to conserve the unique Saharan biodiversity by involving the pastoral communities in surveillance activities;
to involve local communities and other stakeholders in the sustainable management of natural resources and the improvement of the quality of life of the pastoral communities;
to establish a system for enhancing the biological and socio-economic knowledge;
to enhance national, regional and international awareness of the value of the Saharan natural heritage; and
to establish an independent and effective project management structure.

During meetings with the EU Delegation in Niamey and high ranking officials from the Ministry of Water, Environment and Combat of Desertification, CMS was reassured of Niger’s commitment to the protection of the area and to designating it as a National Nature Reserve before the end of 2010. Then it will become one of the largest conservation areas in the world with around 10 million hectares under legal protection.

The process of designation is based on a participatory approach involving the pastoralist people, whose way of life is consistent with the presence of wildlife and the sustainable management of the natural and cultural heritage of the area. The project aims at protecting the local biodiversity, but also the traditional lifestyles of the nomadic people who depend on the natural resources of the region for their livelihood.

In addition, the overall initiative will contribute to achieving Millennium Development Goals 1 (Poverty Reduction), 3 (Gender Equality) and 7 (Environmental Sustainability) by initiating and encouraging micro development projects to help the pastoral communities gain improved living conditions, educating pastoral communities, and integrating young nomads in the conservation structures. It will increase the national, regional and the international levels of awareness which will give value to the Niger’s Saharan natural heritage and thus might be a starting point for further ecotourism projects in the region.

More information about the project can be found here: http://www.ass-niger.org/
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