Dja Periphery Community Project

To work with local communities to build capacity and reduce unsustainable resource use in Cameroon


The great apes and other endangered wildlife of Cameroon are under threat of extinction from the illegal commercial bushmeat trade. This project was implemented with other initiatives to help overcome the need to hunt threatened species for the trade. The Dja Biosphere Reserve (‘DBR') is a Class II Protected Area and World Heritage Site. Working under the auspices of the DBR management plan, the Bristol Conservation and Science Foundation and Living Earth Foundation have been working closely with communities around the DBR to help alleviate pressure on the protected area. With poverty and limited infrastructure creating difficult conditions for the local people we have focused on supporting communities to develop sustainable livelihoods. Initiatives such as cane rat farming, bee-keeping and new forms of income revenue have been introduced as an alternative to bushmeat hunting.

The goal of the project is to work with communities around the Dja in order to help change from illegal, unsustainable activities to sustainable ones. Consultation with the local people identified the issues that needed to be addressed, and the objectives were (in the main) based on these pre-project discussions. The objectives are to:

  1. Enable ‘the voice of the people' to be heard.
  2. Support communities to self-mobilise in sustainable development.
  3. Support game-guard training in conflict management.
  4. Integrate the lessons learnt and key messages into informal and formal education sessions at Yaoundé Zoo and Mefou National Park Great Ape Sanctuary.


Our long term aim is to help build local capacity, so that the people can support themselves without the threat of an uncertain future of fewer natural resources and means of living. The project uses a Participatory Learning and Action approach. We employ local people to build trust and dialogue, looking for ways for people to benefit from the presence of the Protected Area and the species within it.

Previous work highlighted the concerns of the people about not being involved or their voices heard by those who had the responsibility for managing the protection of the DBR. Over a period of several years we have helped local people communicate their messages to the outside world, such as their frustration with corruption, their desire to support rather than hinder law enforcement initiatives, and the fact that they have suffered as a consequence of ‘outsiders' coming into ‘their' forest and hunting. Local people are not the problem, they are the solution. The project was shaped to answer their concerns, including the need for sustainable alternatives.

Bristol Zoo has worked closely with Yaoundé Zoo and Mefou National Park for many years, and hence the opportunity has been taken to communicate the voice of the people to zoo-going and influential visitors to both centres.

The next phases of the project will build on the lessons learnt, and widen its reach to include more communities living around the DBR. We are particularly concerned with addressing the potential threat from increased timber and mineral extraction activities, which could also lead to a boom in the number of people living around the Dja Reserve and put an even greater pressure on the endangered wildlife and other limited natural resources.

WAZA Conservation Project 08031 is implemented by the Bristol Conservation and Science Foundation (Bristol Zoo), and supported by the United Nations Environment Programme, Great Ape Survival Partnership, British High Commission (Yaoundé), UK Government's Global Opportunities Fund, US Fish and Wildlife Service (Great Ape Fund).


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