On 29 January and 2 February 2011, reports on the state of conservation of the property were submitted by the States Parties of Guinea and the Côte d’Ivoire. These reports indicate progress made in implementing the corrective measures adopted by the World Heritage Committee at its 31st and 32nd sessions (Christchurch 2007, Quebec 2008).
For the part of the property situated in Guinea:
The State Party refers to the promulgation of the decree establishing the boundaries of the Biosphere Reserve of Mount Nimba and its zones of influence. The decree focuses on the legal status of the property, the delineation of its boundaries (boundaries of the Reserve, the buffer zone, the mining concession and the Biosphere Reserve), the requirement of environmental and sociological impact studies for any project to be implemented near the property, the regulatory role of the Centre for Environmental Management of the Nimba and Simandou (CEGENS), and the management objectives for the property.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that the new decree updates the protection status of the property as well as that of the other areas of the Biosphere Reserve and the mining concession. They recall that this decree was a key recommendation of the 2007 mission, as requested by the Committee in its Decision 31 COM 7A.3. They recommend that the State Party resubmit a new map of the property, with geo-referenced files if possible, to update the documentation on the property. The report unfortunately does not provide information on progress made on the demarcation of the other parts outside the boundary of the mining concession.
a) Strengthen the capacities of the management authority (Centre de Gestion de l'Environnement du Nimba et du Simandou – CEGENS) in the field, in particular by providing the necessary financial and technical resources to accomplish its mission
The State Party refers to the entry into force of an Order (2010-4642) for the revision of the legal status of the CEGENS. This enables the reinforcement of its management capacity through the establishment of a board of administration, a general directorate, and an accounting agency. Rules of procedure were also developed, and site facilities are being constructed for CEGENS personnel at Gbakoré.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN welcome this institutional strengthening of the CEGENS, but note that it is important that it becomes an authority with the necessary human and financial resources to fully implement the corrective measures adopted by the Committee.
b) Strengthen the surveillance of the property in cooperation with the local communities, in particular by recruiting the necessary eco-guards and by strengthening the capacities of the newly created Village Surveillance Committees (VSC)
The report recalls that an anti-poaching system is now operational, in collaboration with the eco-guards and the VSC, backed up by daily patrols. The report also mentions the effect of this activity on the reappearance of large wildlife in the property. However, no detailed data was provided by the State Party. The process of integrating the 32 eco-guards with a paramilitary status into the public service is underway, but their wages are still provided by the Programme for the Conservation of the Biological Diversity of Mount Nimba (PCBNM).
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN reiterate that the number of eco-guards is still very low in comparison with the size of the area, and the ability of CEGENS to alleviate the many threats to the Nimba Mountains also remains insufficient.
c) Define a buffer zone for the property, in consultation with the local stakeholders concerned, with an appropriate legal status, and strengthen the conservation of the property through sustainable management of the natural resources within this buffer zone
The new decree establishes a buffer zone of 35,140 ha, corresponding to the buffer zone of the Biosphere Reserve, with a status of Managed Natural Reserve. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that the 2007 mission had proposed a functional and narrower buffer zone for the World Heritage property. Nevertheless, clarifying the legal status of the buffer zone is an important step forward.
d) Put in place an ecological monitoring system and a geo-referenced database for all scientific data collected on the property
The State Party recalls that the NGO Fauna & Flora International (FFI) was engaged to set up an ecological monitoring system. The ecological monitoring programme provides for: (i) the establishment of an ecological monitoring baseline – Landscape component, geospatial and biological data; (ii) the establishment of an ecological monitoring baseline – Flora and fauna components, and (iii) mapping training for CEGENS staff.
IUCN notes that the FFI carried out 30 days of ecological monitoring in the Guinea portion of the property between May and July 2010. In total, 216 cases of evidence of illegal incursions were observed on 52 geo-referenced trails with various indications of hunting activity. The presence of collar traps, 12-calibre cartridge shells, poachers’ camp sites, and the detonations of shotguns during the surveys indicate that poaching remains a major problem in the property.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that the system of ecological monitoring described is not yet operational, and encourages the State Party to quickly implement this monitoring system in collaboration with FFI and UNDP. They note with concern the results of ecological monitoring which show an extremely low density of wildlife.
e) Conduct a feasibility study to define a sustainable finance mechanism for the property
The report mentions that a request for International Assistance has been prepared by the State Party to obtain support from the World Heritage Fund for the establishment of an International Foundation for Mount Nimba, as a sustainable financing mechanism. However, at the time of writing this report, this application had not yet been received by the World Heritage Centre.
f) Develop a strategy for the conservation of the Déré Forest and Bossou Hills
In March 2010, the State Party undertook the removal of illegal occupants from the Déré Forest, including Ivorian armed groups who claim ancestry to it. Following this decision, a dialogue was initiated with the Ivorian Government to define the border limits between the Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea in this area. Awareness-raising with the local populations of both countries regarding the conservation of the property has been carried out, and a statement entitled ”The Abidjan Declaration on Sustainable Management of Trans-boundary Forests of Mount Nimba, Déré and Tiapleu”, was signed in July 2010. The Declaration reaffirms the commitment of the States Parties of Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire to: (i) identify funding to restore the Forests of Déré and Tiapleu; (ii) establish a joint system of monitoring and management coordination; (iii) strengthen cooperation with Liberia through exchanges and dialogue, and (iv) seek funding for conservation and sustainable development. On 31 January 2011, the State Party also submitted to the World Heritage Centre a request for International Assistance to reforest the savannah that extends between the property and the second core area of Bossou, in order to restore the migratory flow between the community of Bossou chimpanzees and those of the Nimba Mountains, and thus respond to the recommendation of the 2007 mission. This request shall be processed at the next meeting of the International Assistance review panel.
g) Prepare a management plan for the property and the Biosphere Reserve
No information is given in the report on the status of a management plan. Nevertheless, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that the report contains a logical framework for a project to implement conservation measures within the site. This management project for the Nimba Mountains covers the 2011-2015 period and foresees a budget of USD 2,191,000. The status of this project is not clarified in the report, but presumably it is the second phase of the project funded by the World Environment Fund (WEF).
For the part of the property situated in Côte d’Ivoire
The State Party reports that the slow process of ending the crisis upsets the timetables for the implementation of corrective measures, but once the elections are over the Ivorian Office of Parks and Reserves (OIPR) will be able to implement the Ivorian Government’s strategy for the conservation of protected areas, as envisaged by the Framework Programme for Protected Areas Management (PCGAP). The report also notes that the budget allocated for the conservation of the property has been greatly reduced since the outbreak of the political crisis that had caused the withdrawal of development partners.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that at the time of writing this report, the Côte d’Ivoire continues to experience a difficult post-election crisis. It is therefore likely that the information contained in the report of the State Party is no longer up-to-date.
h) Re-establish the presence of the protected area authority (Office Ivoirien des Parcs
et Réserves - OIPR) within the property and resume management activities, establish cooperation mechanisms and strengthen communication with the local communities
The report of the State Party recalls that the staff is currently based in Ruékué, far from the site, and that the access to the Reserve is limited due to insufficient material and logistical resources, and the slow pace of disarmament. The report notes that meetings between the Directorate of the OIPR of the West Zone, the Prefect of the Department of Danané, the local authorities of the new forces and the local residents are held regularly and a Local Management Committee of the Reserve has been set up. According to the latest information received at the time of preparing this report, the Duékué base of the OIPR appears to have been damaged during the events following the elections.
i) Conduct a wildlife survey of key fauna and flora species to clarify the status of the Outstanding Universal Value of the property, and establish a comprehensive monitoring programme to monitor and control threats in particular from poaching
The State Party reports that from 7 to 20 April 2010, the OIPR partners in collaboration with the Directorate of the OIPR West Zone, carried out an inventory of some species of wildlife in the Reserve. The inventory that was requested by the Iron Ore Mining Company of Guinea (SMFG) was conducted by the Wild Chimpanzee Foundation (WCF). The results show that there remain a large number of chimpanzees in the Ivoirian part of the property. Notably, 120 nests have been located, and the inventory estimates an average of 121 chimpanzees for a density of 2.7 individuals per km². However, the inventory report notes that the analyses contain a high degree of uncertainty due to the low number of transects. The inventory identified a limited presence of other primates and ungulates, as well as strong pressure from hunting activities. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that the results of the chimpanzee inventory are encouraging, but the limited presence of other species and the strong hunting pressure is comparable to the current situation observed in the Guinean part of the property. The State Party notes that a funding request for an inventory was sent to the World Heritage Centre in late 2009, to conduct inventories on key species of fauna and to establish an ecological monitoring programme in cooperation with Guinea and Liberia, once the socio-political situation improves. However, the World Heritage Centre notes that this request was submitted without signature.
j) Define a buffer zone, in consultation with the local stakeholders concerned, with the appropriate legal status to strengthen the conservation of the property through sustainable management of the natural resources within this buffer zone
No progress was reported on this issue.
k) Develop a management plan in close cooperation with all stakeholders, in particular the local community, and harmonise this plan with the plan being developed in Guinea
A request for International Assistance in organising an international bipartisan workshop on the sustainable management of the massifs of the trans-border areas of the Nimba was submitted in 2009 and approved in 2010 for USD 30,000. However, due to the post-election situation in the country, it has not yet been possible to finalise the contract between UNESCO and the OIPR. The State Party also expressed its willingness to continue, in cooperation with Guinea and Liberia, the validation of the management plan, once the socio-political situation improves. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN encourage the State Party to consider using the tool “Enhancing our Heritage” in the development and monitoring of the management plan for Mount Nimba.
l) Define a sustainable finance mechanism for the entire property together with the State Party of Guinea
The State Party notes that in the framework of the management reform for the protected areas, the Côte d’Ivoire has established a Foundation for Parks and Reserves of the Côte d’Ivoire, which aims to facilitate long-term financing for the conservation of the national parks and natural reserves.
m) Mining prospection
The reports of both States Parties evoke mining threats affecting the property on both sides of the border.
For Guinea: With regard to the mining project conducted in the concession by the Iron Ore Mining Company of Guinea (SMFG), the implementation of the Environmental and Sociological Impact Assessment (ESIA) has been delayed because of the presidential elections. At the request of SMFG, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN have submitted detailed comments on the draft terms of reference for the ESIA, and indicated that the project could not continue should the ESIA conclude that the negative impacts could not be mitigated. The World Heritage Centre has not yet received the final version of these terms of reference.
For Côte d’Ivoire: The State Party recalls the Tata Steel Company’s waiver of the mining prospection project in the property, following discussion between IUCN, the World Heritage Centre and the Director of the Global Minerals Group of Tata Steel. This waiver was recently confirmed in an exchange of letters between IUCN and the Directorate of the Tata Steel Company. The report of the State Party notes that no other mining concession has been granted in the Ivorian part of the property.
For Liberia: The World Heritage Centre and IUCN indicate that they have received information about a potential mining project of Arcelor Mittal in Liberia, situated 20 km from the property. They request the State Party of Liberia to submit the ESIA for this project to the World Heritage Centre, and consider that pollution from mining on the Liberian side could cause the release of silt into the water courses towards the Côte d’Ivoire, with negative effects to the Outstanding Universal Value of the property.