IPSI Collaborative Activities

Sustainable management and conservation of resources and traditional knowledge of sacred forests

Lead organization: NGO Circle for Conservation of Natural Resources (ONG Ce.Sa.Re.N)

Other participating organizations: 
International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO)


This collaborative activity was completed as of May 2014.

Completion Form


1. Overview of the project

Benin is a country located in the West African containing about 2 940 sacred forests which cover an area of 18,360 hectares, or about 0.18% of the total area of the country. These sacred forests through their ecological functions (protection of water sources, soil against erosion, habitat for sacred animals and plants), religious function (shelter deities, place of worship, rituals or other ceremonies), socioeconomic and cultural function (harvest of deadwood, herbal or dietary, places of initiation, cemetery) play an important role in the local population well being and in the conservation of natural resources. In addition, sacred forests are the sanctuary of the original biodiversity of ecosystems. They represent a successful model of traditional management and biodiversity conservation. These forests have not benefited from legal protection status like classified forests; however they could maintain the integrity of their resources till a recent past. The principle of this method of conservation is based on fear and respect for traditional local beliefs, on the strength of traditional authority, the power of dignitaries and religious leaders. Currently with the weakness of the traditional power and beliefs, prohibitions are more respected, which is most sacred forests are being unreasonable and uncontrolled exploitation and are subject to a disturbing degradation and sacred forest are threatened It’s urge to save these traditional laboratories the sacred grooves represent and the endogenous knowledge that the dignitaries hold. The NGO Ce.Sa.Re.N will support a new form of co-management which integrates practices and knowledge of traditional and modern sciences. The NGO Ce.Sa.Re.N will work with municipal governments, traditional authorities, practitioners of traditional medicine and religious leaders in conservation and management of these ecosystems.

General objective:

Contribute to the sustainable management of forest resources in wet lands areas for improvement of incomes and the living conditions of populations.

Specific objectives:

  • support conservation and participatory management based on traditional management model,
  • promote the sustainable use of natural resources around these ecosystems in order to reduce the pressures on these resources and increase the income of the poors through improved local production capacity,
  • Empower communities on access and sharing fairly and equitably in the benefits derived from the exploitation of genetic resources (ABS) ecosystems involved.

The strategy of the project:

The project strategy is to combine traditional practices and endogenous knowledge with of modern sciences methods for the participatory and sustainable management of sacred forests. CeSAReN NGOs will support the establishment of local committees and management structures with the mandate and ability to ensure adequate protection of biodiversity resources in sacred forests. Development and participatory management plans will be developed. Biodiversity friendly activities will be promoted within sacred forests and surrounding areas through mechanisms and partnerships with community groups, NGOs, religious authorities and traditional and other healers users. Sacred forests and shoreline village food and medicinal species and associated TK will be identified to be valued. For this purpose, the capacity of communities and particularly those of traditional knowledge holders will be strengthened in terms of Access and Benefit Sharing.

Project area and target group:

The project will be implemented in the wetlands located south of Benin. Project target group is consisted of different social strata of the population involved in management of these forests namely dignitaries, followers of traditional religions, the tradipractitioners, farmers innovators, women, men and youth who depend on sacred forest. The direct benefit of the project for the target group is to develop sacred forests resources to ensure fully and sustainably the vital functions that they play. This project will also help improve incomes and the livelihood of local population.

Expected results:

The main results expected at the end of this project are:

Outcome 1: Forests of the area are equipped with functional participatory management plan

Outcome 2: Income and livelihood are improved in the project areas,

Outcome 3: NTFPs and medicinal species and associated traditional knowledge are more valued in the project area.

2. Budget and duration:

The amount needed to implement the project is estimated at US $ 620,000. The project will be implemented during three (3) years.

3. Clusters to be allocated:

Cluster 1: Knowledge facilitation Cluster 4: Capacity Building Cluster 5: On-the-Ground Activities

4. IPSI member organisations involved:

International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO)

5. Contact person:

BOSSOU Bienvenu
Directeur ONG Cercle pour la Sauvegarde des Ressources Naturelles (ONG Ce.Sa.Re.N )
02 BP 268 Cotonou (Rep. du Bénin)
Tel (00229) 95 42 50 47
E-mail: cesarenong@yahoo.fr or bmbc1957@gmail.com or lokossouo@yahoo.fr


This Collaborative Activity was reported as completed as of January 2015. A follow-up project was subsequently registered as a new IPSI Collaborative Activity, described here.


It is our understanding that Mr. Achille Orphée LOKOSSOU from Benin reported the precursor collaborative Activity as completed at Accra this year.


ITTO also reported this collaborative activity as completed at its 50th ITTC session in November 2014, as follows:


I.                                                            Introduction

The 8-month pre-project was approved under Autumn-2012 Project Cycle through the electronic approval system put in place, and the financing was made at the same Project Cycle by the Government of Japan, Korea and USA. The Agreement regulating the implementation of the pre-project was signed in March 2013. The pre-project implementation was initiated in April 2013 following the disbursement of the first installment of ITTO funds. As an acceptable version of the pre-project completion report was received in May 2014, as well as the financial audit report, the duration of the pre-project implementation had lasted 13 months instead of 8 initially designed by the implementing agency (ONG-CESAREN).


II.                                                           Objective

The aim of this pre-project was to contribute to the sustainable forest management and conservation of biodiversity in Benin by building the capacity of local communities to improve their living conditions, through the conservation of Sacred Forests (SFs) part of Ramsar Sites 1017 and 1018. It specifically intended to evaluate the potential of Sacred Forests located in the Ramsar Sites 1017 and 1018, in order to formulate a project aiming to support their rehabilitation and sustainable management.

III.                                                          Achievements and Outputs

The main pre-project achievements and outputs are summarized in the two following tables:

a) Achievement of outputs

Outputs Level of achievement
1. Baseline information on the SFs of the target sites is available Several technical reports providing updated and documented information and data on the Sacred Forests located in the Ramsar Sites 1017 and 1018, in Benin, were prepared by consultants and validated by key stakeholders through a participatory approach.
2. A project proposal to support the rehabilitation and sustainable management of Sacred Forests within Ramsar Sites 1017 and 1018 in Benin is formulated and submitted to ITTO approval. A project proposal was formulated with the updated information and data gathered and analyzed through the implementation of this pre-project. It was validated by main stakeholders, and submitted to the ITTO regular project cycle. It was registered as PD754/14 (F) by the ITTO Secretariat with the following title: “Rehabilitation and sustainable management of Sacred Forests on Ramsar Sites 1017 and 1018”.


b) Achievement of objectives


Objectives  Level of achievement
Development Objective: To contribute to the conservation and sustainable management of biodiversity in Benin by building the capacity of local communities to improve their living conditions Relevant information and data (forest inventory, socioeconomic, environmental, mapping aspects) required for the formulation of a full project proposal were gathered and analyzed during the pre-project implementation, through studies and surveys carried out in the target zone of the future project, with the collaboration of key stakeholders.
The Specific Objective of the preliminary draft is to evaluate the potential of 1017 and 1018 Ramsar sites sacred forests in order to formulate a project proposal for the rehabilitation and sustainable management of these forests A project proposal was developed in a participatory process while taking into account the findings of studies carried out by consultants in the Sacred Forests part of Ramsar Sites 1017 and 1018, in Benin. It was appraised by the 48th Expert Panel in August 2014.


IV.                                                         Outcomes and Impacts

The main pre-project outcomes and impacts, in relation to the expected outputs and associated activities, can be summarized as follows:

  • The pre-project implementation was an opportunity to gather and analyze more information and data (environmental and socio-economic aspects) on the Sacred Forests (SFs) part of Ramsar Sites 1017 et 1018 and also to precisely map and demarcate them;
  • Key stakeholders were identified and involved in the assessment of the potential of these SFs and the sensitization campaigns led some of them to endorse the project objectives and even contributed to get the commitment of some local authorities for the  co-financing of the future project; and
  • Better sharing of the project’s aim and strong involvement of key stakeholders contributed to develop a project proposal based on accurate information and data.


V.                                                           Lessons Learnt and sustainability

5.1 Lessons learnt

For the project derived from the implementation of this pre-project, it was important to give priority to the establishment of a consultation technical committee aiming to address the issue of cultural beliefs and taboo linked to SFs in Benin, in order the ensure the involvement of key stakeholders operating in the target zone. The implementation of this pre-project was an opportunity for sensitization campaigns aiming to show the importance of Ramsar Sites 1017 and 1018, in Benin, which are dotted with pockets of Sacred Forests with a very rich biodiversity, representing a natural heritage of great value for their multiple functions (socio-cultural, ritual, environmental, etc.). These Sacred Forests constitute an endogenous form of biodiversity conservation and play a crucial role in the lives of local communities.


5.2 Sustainability

For the future project derived from the implementation of this pre-project, the sustainability should be based on the involvement of key stakeholders, including local communities, through a participatory process to be considered as a key element of the project implementation strategy. The involvement of key stakeholders, including local communities, in the management of SFs part of Ramsar Sites 1017 and 1018, should contribute to the sustainability if their interests and needs are taken into account. As part of contribution to the sustainability, some local authorities have expressed the commitment for the co-financing of the future project.