The Park has always been able to rely on a precious ally for its protection: the communities that call this forest home. People from neighboring villages were involved in the creation of the Park, and today are partners, employees and beneficiaries of the wildlife conservation effort.
Villages surrounding the Park are home to a variety of communities, faiths, and nationalities.
The Park’s neighboring forests have been historically sparsely populated, with no evidence of permanent settlement inside the Park. Indigenous BaAka hunter-gatherers moved through the vast forests, trading with fishing villages situated along the Sangha and Motaba rivers.
Prior to the arrival of roads, villages were accessible only on foot or by boat, and everyone, from the BaAka to the Pomo, Kaka and Bomassa peoples relied on natural resources from these rich forests and rivers respectively. Today, the closest settlements to the Park are Bomassa, around 20 kilometers from the park to the south-west on the Sangha River, and Makao, around 30 kilometers to the east on the Motaba.
Here, people from indigenous peoples and local communities were
heavily involved in the first wildlife surveys and protection efforts in
the 1990’s, building a strong local base of support for the creation of
the Park in 1993. Since then, people have benefitted from significant
employment and training, with 80% of the heads of households in Bomassa
and 40% of the heads of households in Makao working for the Park. People
who previously hunted elephants now work for the Park as rangers,
guides or in research or support efforts.
Hélène, hairdresser in Bomassa, is also supporting the Park’s community development activities, raising awareness in her Ba’Aka community.
development has come to areas around the Park, with logging activities,
employment and growth in settlements, indigenous people have
unfortunately become a marginalized class of citizens, as they settle
and are increasingly tied to villages, losing parts of their traditions.
The Congolese government has taken steps to ensure protection of
indigenous peoples through new laws designed to protect BaAka culture
and ways of life. The Park seeks to uphold this objective, honoring the
role of Indigenous BaAka hunter-gatherers as key actors in conservation.
Many members of the BaAka community put their unparalleled traditional
knowledge of the forest into action as rangers, research assistants and
as support staff, and others work with the Park on improving management
of hunting in the Park’s periphery.
Outside of the
direct benefit of employment, the Park also aims to improve standards of
living for communities living nearest to wildlife, whilst ensuring that
the natural resources people depend upon are preserved for future
generations. To this end, the Park supports important key services in
these remote rural communities, including elementary schools,
scholarship programs, health centers and clean drinking water.
Connecting the Central African Republic, Cameroon, and Congo, the Sangha is of vital importance to the region, enabling fishing, trade, sanitation, and transportation.
living along the Sangha river are reliant on the rich diversity of
wildlife in the forest and rivers. As urban populations grow — the need
for improved management of these important resource only increases. In
response, the Park, along with WCS, works with local fishers and hunters
to seek better ways of managing fish and game stocks to ensure local
food security and livelihoods can persist, such as a fisheries charter
for the Sangha River, adopted in 2017.
conservation starts to show positive results, wildlife populations can
also impact on people’s well-being. Elephants, in particular, are fond
of eating whole fields full of crops. The Park has piloted a
solar-powered electric fence to protect crops in Bomassa village, an
unprecedented opportunity for the communities in a region where
agriculture is often unprofitable due to wildlife damage.