Cohabitation between local communities and chimpanzees in Guinea
In 2020, LEAF together with its partner Biotope run a series of game session with local communities in Guinea. The mission was part of the COHAB project, funded by the ARCUS Foundation and implemented by Biotope, in partnership with Guinée Ecologie, Jane Goodall Institute and LEAF Inspiring Change. The objective of this 3-year project was to identify solutions to improve cohabitation between chimpanzees and local communities in the Fouta-Djalon, in Guinea.
We played the game Agriforest that originally was developed by indigenous and local communities in Cameroon. Didn’t matter, the game helped to initiate discussion about land management in the villages.
Based on the first exchanges with the communities, we modified the game and adapted it to the the agro-ecological and socio-economic conditions of the Fouta-Djalon region in Guinea. Agriforest became COHAB, a game that models the dynamics around agriculture, forest use, and chimpanzees. Between 2021 and 2022, Biotope has used the COHAB game to engage to engage with local communities in discussions about land use planning, forest management and chimpanzee coexistence. The game helped to identify concrete conservation measures that communities would be willing to invest in, and was used to define alternative economic activities to reduce communities’ necessity to extensively use the forest and its resources.
As one of the key objectives the project aimed to lay the basis to develop a new approach to biodiversity and ecological impact offsetting. So called “Conservation Agreements” between communities and offsetting industries (such as mining companies that have to compensate their destructive impact on biodiversity and forest habitats). Under these Agreements, communities shall commit to engage in conservation measures such as restoration and forest protection, while they will benefit from financial support to kick-start alternative income-generating activities such as apiculture and agroforestry.
In November 2022, Biotope hosted a institutional workshop Conakry, Guinea, facilitated by LEAF to present the project’s key results to Biotope’s institutional partners, as well as to demonstrate the use of serious games for conservation work. Two sessions were organized on the 2nd and 4th of November, with Guinean institutional actors, including representatives from the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development (MEED), the National Directorate of Forests and Wildlife (DNFF), the Guinean Environmental Assessment Agency (AGEE), the Guinean Office of National Parks and Wildlife Reserves (OGPNRF), the Ministry of Energy and Hydraulics, the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry, the Chamber of Mines, as well as the IUCN Guinea Focal Point.
On the first day, our LEAF experts Céline Dillmann and Léa Ackerer facilitated a normal COHAB game sessions and let participants get to know the approach and familiarise with the rules. At the end of the day we asked: “what would you change if you could play again?” – The answers were as insightful as validating: all ideas ranging from investing more in conservation, identifying alternative income sources, improving community cooperation are elements of the before-mentioned Conservation Agreements that had been developed as part of the project.
In order to help making these Conservation Agreements more tangible, we translated these Conservation Agreements into new rules in the COHAB game, a conceptual process that itself helps to clarify key elements of the innovation. And then we made the institutional participants play: On the second day of the workshop, we simulated the negotiation of a Conservation Agreement and its implementation, exploring potential pitfalls and challenges, and observing the benefits for wildlife and communities. In an extensive debriefing, we reflected on the applicability of this kind of Conservation Agreement in the context of Guinea, required legal conditions to integrate them in the national compensation scheme and also discussed the use of serious games as a facilitation tool in general.
“The game helped to identify problems that can arise during implementation of the agreement.”
For our LEAF team, the mission was not only great fun. Our take home messages were:
- developing new rules can advance internal working sessions for our partner by miles and help them clarify their concept
- the game helped Biotope to elicit new information from their institutional partners by engaging with them in a non-formal setting
- the institutional partners found it very enriching, to let them summarise their experience in one word: “informative, discovery, curiosity, innovative, leadership, consultation, fun, satisfactory, courage, new knowledge”
The COHAB project was closed in December 2022, but Biotope continues its engagement on biodiversity offsetting in Guinea.
Story written by: Léa Ackerer, edited by: LEAF
Photo credits: Biotope, Biotope, LEAF, Biotope