Applied Research. Elaboration of Common Research Methodologies and Construction of Scientific Interaction Indicators.
Reducing poverty, increasing local communities' incomes, biodiversity conservation, are the keys to the sustainable development promoted by the regional programme "Building scientific and technical capacity for effective management and sustainable use of biodiversity in dryland biosphere reserves of West Africa". The project identifies alternative economic activities through its three components, focusing particularly on problems of women, who lack access to lands in several biosphere reserves.
Diverse representations of nature and society are at the centre of conflicts of uses between biosphere reserves and local communities. The regional programme MAB-GEF launched a research on local societies and particularly on human activities that exert pressure on the environment in order to reach the main objective of its Component 1 "Improving the understanding of interactions between savannah ecosystems and societies". A co-construction process of interaction indicators has been started in October-November 2004 in three countries participating in the project: Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. The interaction indicators based on the dialogue between scientists and local communities provide information about the way in which various environmental phenomena have a reciprocal influence.
Interaction indicators' tables focus on stakeholders or resources. They are drawn up using the data provided by field surveys on human activities and their impact on the evolution of the biodiversity. Indicators are then tested in demonstration sites in order to envisage the changing of uses and to find sustainable economic activities for local communities. The whole community of Sorghos, inhabitants of the Karey-Kopto village situated on the Niger River on the border of W biosphere reserve (Niger), receives direct incomes from tourism. Well-known for their skills in hunting crocodile and hippopotamus, the Sorghos had to adapt to new access rules resulting from the biosphere reserve creation. Little by little the Sorghos have been initiated to the management of a tourist camp built-up by Point Afrique.
Today five persons are directly employed by the camp which receives from 150 to 300 tourists every year. Other villagers can also increase their incomes offering housing, catering and handicrafts to campers. MAB-GEF regional programme relies on these successful examples of alternative sustainable activities initiated by partners of the project. Interaction indicators constructed in the Component 1 will be tested starting from January 2007 in demonstration sites identified by each participating country.