Conserving Gabon

Forging partnerships to further conservation of the Ogooué River Basin

TNC joined the CBFP, which is working to advance sustainable management of Central Africa’s natural resources.

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) joined the Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP) in the fall of 2013 as one of more than 70 members, including African countries, donor agencies, international organizations, NGOs, research institutions and private corporations working together to advance sustainable management of natural resources in Central Africa. 

1) What is the Congo Basin Forest Partnership?

The Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP) was launched by Colin Powell at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa. The CBFP provides a forum for more than 70 Congo basin stakeholders to dialogue, collaborate and communicate about regional development and conservation efforts. Working closely with the Central African Forest Commission (COMIFAC), a regional organization coordinating forest and environmental policy, the CBFP aims to increase the impact of activities that conserve nature and biodiversity, promote good forest management and improve standards of living in the region. 

The CBFP organizes workshops, working groups and consultative groups to help African leadership address the critical environmental challenges they face and advance the conservation and sustainable use of the region’s forests. Products of CBFP's collaborative efforts include its "State of the Congo Basin Forests" reports, published in collaboration with COMIFAC in 2006, 2008 and 2010. 

2) Why did TNC join CBFP?

TNC pursued CBFP membership to strengthen its work in Gabon, also a member of CBFP and COMIFAC since much of the country and the entire Ogooué River watershed lies within the Congo forest region. The CBFP provides a platform for engaging with key Congo basin stakeholders and policy makers and a central place for sharing new conservation tools that could be scaled up for use throughout the basin. TNC is very pleased to be partnering with such a prestigious and influential organization and plans to leverage its technical expertise and focus on whole-system solutions to augment and further the collective goals of the CBFP and its member organizations. 

3) Why is TNC working in Gabon?

Gabon is a rapidly developing central African country known for its wealth of natural resources and extensive national park system. TNC is focusing its efforts on the Ogooué River Basin – the majority of which lies within Gabon’s borders. The Ogooué is home to an astounding array of wildlife: endangered forest elephants, Western lowland gorillas, chimpanzees, secretive dwarf crocodiles, threatened manatees and dozens of fish species found nowhere else on Earth. Since the vast majority of this healthy and largely intact river basin lies within one country’s borders, it represents an unprecedented conservation opportunity. 

4) How will TNC’s work be designed to have an impact in the region?

Forward-thinking Gabonese leaders have carved a path for sustainable development and natural resource management through Gabon Émergent, which is a national development strategy that includes one pillar (of only three) dedicated to sustainable use and conservation of the country’s natural capital—Gabon Vert

TNC, through its Great Rivers Partnership (a program that brings together diverse partners and the best science to protect eight of the world’s great rivers), is supporting multiple government units (including the Agence Nationale des parcs nationaux) and working with global and local NGOs, such as the World Wide Fund for Nature and the Wildlife Conservation Society to sustain the Ogooué River’s healthy forests and waterways — as well as the drinking water, food, timber and fuel they provide for hundreds of thousands of people — in balance with Gabon’s goals for economic growth.  

5) What’s an example of how TNC plans to support Gabon’s efforts to balance conservation and development interests?

Currently, plans are underway to more than triple the country’s hydropower generation by 2020. TNC is starting conversations with government and private sectors about the value of developing a basin-wide approach to hydropower dam siting and mitigation. With thoughtful planning and execution, new hydropower dams can be constructed and operated in ways that minimize their impact on nature and rural communities, such as lower Ogooué fishing communities.  

As a first step, TNC is coordinating the development of a Freshwater Conservation Atlas, which will help government and private industry evaluate the potential impacts of hydropower (and other development activities) on rivers, forested wetlands and other natural resources. As the effort progresses, key milestones and lessons learned will be shared through the CBFP so that conservation efforts in other parts of the basin can leverage findings from the work in Gabon.