The Ntakata Forest sits within the Mahale Mountains, and has been home to populations of eastern long-haired chimpanzees for centuries. The Tongwe people who live there have never hunted the chimpanzees for their meat because of their respect for the creatures and the forest they inhabit. Sadly, destruction of the habitat is increasingly threatened by deforestation and future mining projects.
The project wants to secure the Ntakata Forest as a Village Land Forest Reserve (VLFR). Establishment of the VLFR on village land will secure protection and use rights for the owning villages and their inhabitants. This legal step is key for the conservation of forests outside government protected areas, and will enable the local communities to conserve these areas and their resources against emerging and external threats, including grazing and burning, the impacts of new roads being built through the area and prospecting/exploration activities by mining companies.
Status of the Project.
Twelve villagers have been trained, equipped and employed as community forest guards carrying out patrols and monitoring in the forest area to prevent illegal activities and incursions. There has been no reduction in area or condition of the forest. There has been significant progress in establishing the Ntakata forest as a gazetted Village Land Forest Reserve (VLFR). The Tongwe villages have surveyed and demarcated the boundaries of the emerging Forest Reserve, working together with local officials of the department of Forestry and Bee-keeping. The surveys delineated a total reserve area of 18,300 hectares, considerably larger than the 8,300 hectares originally proposed. The reserve area comprises a range of habitats with at least 2,500 hectares of primary humid forest of very significant conservation value and including chimpanzee populations that have not yet been impacted by habitat encroachment or development.
Community development progress: Dispensaries in Tongweland have been supplied with fridge-freezers for storage of vaccines; solar lighting units have been provided for local schools and clinics; and foot-powered irrigation pumps have been supplied to the villages to help with horticulture and home gardens producing food.