By African standards Gabon is a small country (about 3/4 of Poland or 3 times the size of Czech Republic). About 80% of the state is covered by primary or secondary rainforest and a smaller part by savannah. Only about 1.1% is agricultural arable land. That alone was interesting enough already. Equally important is the fact that the area of rainforest is virtually stable (in the last decade, only 1% has been lost) and the country also has 11 national parks well managed (by African standards) by the Agency for National Parks. National parks make up over 10% of the country’s territory. A big share on their proclamation in 2001 had an expedition of the famous American ecologist Mike Fay.
The country is quite rich in mineral resources (oil, coltan, manganese) and the standard of living is among the highest in Africa (according to the World Bank, GDP is USD 10,000 per capita, the neighbouring Democratic People’s Republic of Congo approx. 600 USD per capita). The systematic and long-term support of President Ondimba (as well as of his father, Omar Bongo Ondimba) initiated the process of the declaration of national parks. The Minister of Forestry, Water, Sea and Environment, the Gabon-English professor Lee White also had a significant share. I had the pleasure to meet both the President Ali Bongo Odimba (IUCN conference in Sydney in 2014) and Minister Lee White as well the Director of the Agency Christian Tchemambela.
The rainforests of the Congo Basin have, for more reasons, surprisingly high ability to sequestrate the CO2 (the CO2 sequestration is estimated to 140 million tons a year). Gabon strives to make these ecosystem services objectives a matter of international financial compensations which would contribute to better protection of this unique biome as well as the economic development of this country. So far, Gabon has received (Norwegian funds) more than USD17 million (CZK 0.4 billion) for these exemplary documented services. The country has a well-preserved natural environment and is one of the safest countries in Africa. It is also a country where the ecotourism is flourishing, so being part of the financial compensation system will contribute to the diversification of the Gabonese economy and employment. The country’s potential in this field is significant. The country is now home to two-thirds of the African population of forest elephants and two-thirds of the global population of lowland gorillas. All this is especially possible thanks to well-functioning nature protection and low population density.
Forests Elephant Forests Buffalo
Director of the Agency Christian Tchemambela. Minister Lee White