Bringing together unlikely partners to protect the Nimba Mountains

The Darwin Initiative has provided the catalyst for a groundbreaking initiative to foster transboundary collaboration on environmental management in West Africa’s stunning Nimba Mountains.

Successful cooperation between countries is notoriously difficult, particularly in Africa, but Fauna & Flora International (FFI) has set itself the goal of ensuring the governments of Liberia, Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire work together to manage mining and other developments in this biodiversity-rich area.

Nimba’s rich soil and forests

The 40km-long Nimba Mountains contain large deposits of iron ore – a valuable resource which the three range states cannot afford to ignore. Liberia, Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire all suffer from high levels of poverty and are either currently experiencing political unrest or recovering from recent conflict.

Thus the governments have allocated mining concessions to major multinational extractive companies such as Arcelor Mittal, BHP Billiton and SMFG across the Nimba Mountain range.

However, it is vital that mining is balanced with sound environmental management – the area contains a World Heritage Site, supports many unique and threatened species, including the fascinating Nimba otter shrew (Micropotamogale lamotteiv). It also provides crucial ecosystem services for local communities such as watershed protection. Mining and bush meat are the two biggest threats to Nimba’s forests and wildlife.

Working across borders

Support from the Darwin Initiative has enabled FFI to work towards establishing a multistakeholder transboundary environmental governance platform to ensure that communities, companies, conservation NGOs and government bodies across all three countries are involved in environmental management decisions. Sustainable conservation is only possible once all stakeholders are involved.

The transboundary initiative has been making excellent progress, mapping and engaging stakeholders, making policy recommendations and carrying out other crucial activities. The mining companies have committed to sharing data to help in the creation of a Nimba Biodiversity Atlas, a clear sign of support for the project.

Securing the future

The team has also forged strong ties with the US Forestry Service and the Mano River Union (MRU), a well-established multi-stakeholder platform in the region. In fact, the MRU has recently chosen to adopt the project as a key MRU case study, which will secure the future of the initiative beyond the DI grant.

Though collaboration between divergent groups is never easy, it is the only way to find a path to the region’s sustainable development.

For more information about the project, please visit the Nimba Darwin Project website.

Learn about FFI’s Business & Biodiversity Programme.