Due to the isolated position of the Boé sector in the South-East of Guinea Bissau, its population is deprived of many of the benefits of citizens in other parts of the country. Soils are very poor and the market is hard to reach. As a result, farming is much more difficult with fewer revenues than elsewhere in Guinea Bissau. Public health care is minimal: HIV, TBC, lepra and noma are not rare diseases. Over 80 % of the female adult population is illiterate. Nowadays girls start school, but drop-out of girls from schools is very high. The positive side is that thanks to this isolation, customary rights and traditional institutions are relatively strong while biodiversity is still rich. The area even provides a refuge for wildlife from adjacent areas. However, the system is under stress due to demographic growth (the population has doubled since the 1980’s) and the attraction of modern times (striving for motorbikes, nice cloths, modern guns, etc.). IBAP (The Institute for Biodiversity and Protected Areas) is actually establishing a National Park in the Boé (PNB). Chimbo Foundation, together with its local sister organization Daridibó, executes a program of community based sustainable conservation in the Boé, creating synergy between conservation and development.
Problem to be solved
For the local communities the cultural values of the Boé are mainly rooted in their relation with the natural environment (e.g. forest grooves, natural springs, specific animal- and plant species, …). The traditional knowledge about the natural and cultural environment resides notably with the elders. There is a need to transfer this knowledge to the next generation. Erosion of cultural values in the Boé especially among the younger generation can be easily observed: food- and hunting taboos are no longer respected as before and baboons for instance have become scarce as a result; sacred forests are threatened by expanding agriculture; alcohol consumption is on the increase among the youngsters of these traditional Muslim communities, etc. This creeping loss of traditions and of respect for traditional institutions presents a threat to the survival of Boé’s cultural heritage and natural resource base. It must be counteracted as it will in the end affect nature and human livelihood alike in a (very) negative way.
Human well-being is under permanent stress in the Boé. With the gradual disappearance of the forests, the natural environment will no longer be in a position to fully cover with products from the wild. The weakness of local authorities provides no relief for failing traditional management and leadership.
Expected situation at the end of the action
By the time the project will come to its end, we anticipate that:
- better knowledge among all stakeholders and partners of the cultural values of the Boé, their importance and their use, will benefit the protection and rational use of these assets,
- and that thanks to the participatory approach adopted, a common language and understanding will prevail among all stakeholders, leading to strengthened local ownership of the resources and better decision making at all levels respecting the rules of democracy, and such to the benefit of all involved.
From psychology we know that the cultural identity of a person and of the society in which he or she lives, is a key-condition for a balanced development of that person and of that society. The proposed action will strengthen the awareness of the people of Guinea Bissau and of the Boé about the cultural assets of the Boé sector and why it is important that they are conserved and how this can be done. In addition, ways to exploit these resources rationally to the local people’s benefit will be demonstrated.
The people of the Boé are vulnerable to crises. In case a crisis occurs, they are thrown back to themselves as assistance will be far off and relief agencies do seldom give priority to interventions in the Boé. This affects the women and their young children in the first place, as women are less mobile and hardly educated. This action pays specific attention to the cultural aspects with respect to the position of women. Education of schoolchildren on the values of culture will help to lay a sound basis for their conservation in new generations.
At national level, the Boé has an almost mythical value as the place of birth of the State of Guinea Bissau. Independence was declared on Lugajole Hill during the struggle for freedom from colonial masters. For that reason, conservation and management of Lugajole hill will be important for the national identity of the people of Guinea Bissau as a whole.
The long-term objective of this action is “To strengthen the role of the local population in safeguarding the cultural assets of the Boé sector, by a program of community-based conservation and rational and equitable use of these assets”.
- The cultural values of the Boé are adequately protected and conserved, and the relevant regulations respected from local to national levels of decision taking; the Boé National Park strengthened with respect to the sustainable conservation of its cultural assets
- Promotion of activities for income generation and food security, with special attention for the development of ecotourism
COMBAC Boé (Community based conservation of the cultural and natural values of the Boé sector) is a project financed for 75% by the EU and for 25% by Chimbo. It is executed by Chimbo in cooperation with its local partner Daridibó.