Three Central African National Parks are at the heart of this project, all of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Bursting with rare species of plants and animals, these parks and their forests are home to many indigenous groups. Humans have inhabited these areas for over 50,000 years and it is now home to around 150 distinct ethnic groups, such as the Baka people, a hunter-gatherer society that maintain a phenomenal connection to the forest.
Stretching over four provinces, Salonga National Park is at the heart of the Congo Basin. Only accessible by water or air, it is home to around 5,500 indigenous peoples and 280,000 live on its periphery.
Lobéké National Park, located in southeast Cameroon, is home to diverse and luscious forests and wildlife. 23,250 people live within the park and on its periphery, but lack access to basic needs such as healthcare, education and clean water.
The Dzanga-Sangha Protected Areas are found in the southwest regions of the Central African Republic. 13 villages can be found here, home to 13,000 people, 5,000 of whom are indigenous.
Local communities and indigenous peoples protect 80% of the world's biodiversity, despite representing less than 5% of the world's population. Their land is their place of subsistence, but also their home; a place where nature and culture are inseparable. The traditional knowledge systems of local communities and indigenous peoples have enabled them to coexist peacefully and harmoniously in their environment for millennia. Conservation is therefore deeply rooted in Indigenous ways of life.
Despite this, local communities and indigenous peoples rarely have a say in the management of their environment, even though the legislation recognizes these rights. Efforts to claim and protect their rights to exist safely on their ancestral lands are ignored. This, despite their fundamental role in preserving the planet and its precious ecosystems. Protecting or sustainably managing biodiversity appears to be an imperative, and fighting for the preservation of forest ecosystems and wildlife is necessary in order to prevent the most common types of threats and to think about palliative solutions; local communities and indigenous peoples have internalized this notion of sustainable management, through their ancestral or customary practices. Thus, the Bengo Project's new approach to "inclusive conservation" is vital for the survival not only of indigenous peoples and local communities, but also of the Earth itself.
The Bengo Project seeks to encourage and develop practicable long-term conservation methods alongside Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLC). These methods guarantee the recognition, promotion and respect of their fundamental human rights, while guaranteeing inclusive involvement and direct participation in decision-making concerning the management of indigenous lands and territories as well as the resources therein.