Posted by: rumnet | July 23, 2010

Mole Game Reserve

Mole Game Reserve Communities

Empowered To Make A Living

(Published in the June edition of TheADVOCATE)

By Alhassan Imoru

For the first time visitor, traveling from the northern regional capital, Tamale, the gateway to the Mole National Park, the journey appears smooth on setting off until one reaches the “Junction,” which leads to Damongo in the West Gonja District.

The jostling starts from the “Junction,” where the untarred road begins. The stretch to Damongo through Larabanga is not only bumpy but also dusty. The bumps start in a relatively small way, but  advancing on the road, they become bigger, deeper and undulating.

Because of the unmotorable nature of the road, the Metro Mass Transit Transport (MMTT), which is the most reliable means of transportation, sometime in April, this year, suspended services on that route.

Tourists and other travelers have since had to make the journey from Tamale to Wa through Kintampo in the Brong Ahafo Region, thereby avoiding Damongo and Larabanga which lead to Mole, the largest National Park and one of the premier tourist attractions in Ghana.

Covering an area of 4,840 sq. km, the Mole National Park is home to elephants, buffalos, waterbucks, lions, leopards, bush pigs and roans. It is also acclaimed for its over 734 species of flowering plants, 148 trees and 284 herb species.

Mole National Park is presently the main tourist attraction in the north. It is one of the larger wildlife protected areas in the West African Savanna. The Park has seen its visitors numbers increasing steadily over the years: from less than 3,000 in 1990 to over 16,000 in 2008.

With the withdrawal of the Metro transport from that route, this might reduce the number of visitors to Mole, now that tourists wishing to visit the Park from Tamale, have to rely on alternative means of transport like taxis at a greater cost and the risk of being attacked by armed robbers.

Yet, once upon a time, Gonjaland produced two Members of Parliament, Mr. Seidu Amadu and Mr. Alex Sarfo, who served as Minister and Deputy Minister respectively for the Ministry of Roads and Transport. The question that arises is: what did they do to improve the Junction-Damongo-Larabanga road whilst in office?

Mognori Eco Village

The Rural Media Network (RUMNET) recently visited Mole to find out what the wildlife Division has done to ensure equitable socio-Economic benefits for all segments of society from forest resource management in the Mole Game Reserve,among others.

In a chat with the Community Resource Management Officer, Mr. Enoch Ashie, he disclosed that the Wildlife Division supported Mognori Community of approximately 500 people to establish a community-based tourism enterprise, the Mognori Eco Village, which gives tourists the opportunity to experience African village life and cultural practices at firsthand.

Located 15 kms on the eastern boundary of the Mole Park from the main entrance, Mognori Eco Village which was inaugurated in 2007, offers a number of tourist activities for a fee.

These include Canoe Safaris for tourists to view birdlife and animals along the Mognori River, and Guided Village Walks to observe village life and share experiences with community members. A special attraction is a visit to the village Medicine Man, to see how he maintains ancient healing traditions.

Other activities are Cultural performances conducted by a dance ensemble comprising 12 men and five women to show-case the cultural traditions of the community, and Homestay in Traditional Houses for tourists on multi-day trips to Mognori, who are offered Homestay in the community.

According to the Community Resource Management Officer, the Mognori CREMA manages the Mognori Eco Village Enterprise and charges fees for the various tourist activities.

CREMA, which stands for Community Resource Management Area, is a physically defined geographical area that encompasses one or more communities that have agreed to manage natural resources in a sustainable manner.

The CREMA approach creates on incentive (financial or otherwise) for farmers to sustainably manage and use natural resources by the devolution of authority to manage and to benefit from sustainable natural resource use.

The fees charged are: Canoe Safari-GH¢ 17.50 per tourist, Guided Walk GH¢ 7.00 per tourist, and Cultural Performance- GH¢ 12.00 per group.

The Manager of the Mognori Eco Village, Mr. Mohama Abukari, said the CREMA members directly engaged in the various tourist activities are paid some allowances from the fees collected.

He said because of the benefits derived from the Mognori Eco Village, the members contribute immensely towards biodiversity conservation in the community through sound natural resource management to attract more tourists.

On his part, the Chairman of the Mognori CREMA, mr Adam Kara, says in the past the local communities did not get any benefits from the Mole National Park, were not included in the management of the protected area, and were also seen as a hindrance to conservation efforts.

He said with the establishment of the CREMA all these have changed since the communities now own the natural resources and protect them jealously.

“We are not worried about the laws protecting the Reserve because it is these laws which have made it possible for different species of wildlife to be preserved for the youth to be able to see today and by future generations, the CREMA Chairman stated.

“We are not worried about the laws protecting the Reserve because it is these laws which have made it possible for different species of wildlife to be preserved for the youth to be able to see today and by future generations,” the CREAMA Chairman stated.

He added that with the active participation and accrual of benefits by the Mognori Eco Village, communities fringing Mole now understand conservation and therefore work closely with Wildlife authorities to utilize resources in a sustainable manner.

According to Mr. Kara, through the benefits derived from the ecotourism venture, he has been able to educate one of his sons to University level.

The Mognori Eco Village has demonstrated that community structures are capable of managing business oriented community- based tourism initiatives, and that such enterprises could indeed provide income and employment opportunities to rural households. Moreover, most money spent by tourists remains in the community.

Beckeeping Venture

The Wildlife Division has also supported 13 communities to undertake beckeeping ventures which, Mr. Ashie says, has proved to be one of the most profitable income generating activities for the beneficiary communities.

These include Jifronu, Bawena, Kpulunbu, Yazori, Kedan, Murugu, Mognori and Larabanga, who together harvested some 560 gallons of pure honey in 2009

The Wildlife Division works through community, Resource Management committees (CRMCs) which determine the policies and actiovities of the CREMA, three of which have started at Murugu-Mognori, Yazori-Kadem and Jellinkon.

Currently, there are 25 CRMCs in existence in four districts, namely West Gonja (11),, west Mamprusi (4), Funsi (5) and Sawla-Tuna-Kalba (5)

He said the support given to the communities by the Wildlife Division was in the form of training and provision of equipment / in puts, while A ROCHA Ghana, a Damongo-based NGO also supports CREMAs through start- up inputs, marketing and training.

Mr. Ashie added that the Division takes one-third of the profits accrued from the sale of the honey with the rest going to the communities. In 2009, a gallon of honey sold at GH¢ 16 but this has since increased to GH¢ 20.

Art and Crafts Shop

According to the Community Resource Management Officer, an art and crafts shop has been established at the Mole National Park, to which communities supply products they make including wood carvings and tye and dye materials for sale to tourists.

The profits from the shop are used by the Wildlife Division to support communities including Bawena and Murugu in their wood carving and Larabanga in its tye and dye business.

Attracting Investment

Asked what the Wildlife Division has done to attract investment in the Mole Game Reserve, Mr. Ashie said the Division has significantly improved tourism facilities and attractions in and around the National Park under the recently completed Wildlife Division Support Project (WDSP).

These include improved opportunities for game viewing in the southern part of the Park through the provision of more roads, hiking trails, viewing platforms, campsites, shops and information centre.

He disclosed that two new waterfalls have been identified within the National Park which, if well developed, will increase the tourist inflow to the Park and attract investment.

Mr. Ashie said as part of efforts to involve the private sector in the management of the Park, the Wildlife Division is currently holding talks with M&J Tourism Company which has expressed interest in providing transport services to and from the National Park.

Meanwhile, the Motel at the Park, which is due for privatization, is currently under private management.

The Community Resource Management Officer says an initial financial assessment shows that the returns on the investments required would be positive with annual revenues exceeding GH¢ 2.5 million.

Considering its size, Mole could accommodate 50,000 tourists per year or more, provided the northern half of the Park would be opened up, and accommodation would by upgraded in terms of quality and capacity.

Mr. Ashie said although there has been some interest from private investors, particularly in Mole, this has as yet not resulted in concrete investments. This requires a concerted effort from both government and development partners.

A study conducted by the Netherlands Development Organisation (SNV) recently shows that “Mole National Park is important in the rural economy, firstly because it is a large employer with over 200 staff, most of whom are locals; secondly because of its labour intensive development approach; thirdly because of the opportunities for tourism related enterprise development; and lastly because of its investment in income generating activities in local communities.”

Recognizing the potential of tourism for local and regional economic development, SNV Ghana engaged with the Mole National Park, the Ghana Tourist Board and other stakeholders three years ago to further raise visitor numbers as well as to increase income and employment of the local population, with particular focus on the poor.

But until and unless the people who live in and around the Mole National Park get to see some benefits from the wealth of the resource around them, they have no incentive to look after the forest, its wildlife and other resources, nor will farmers outside the game reserve.

For the CREMA approach to provide some incentive for wildlife and natural resource conservation, it must provide clearly perceived financial and economic benefits to local people at a level sufficient to compensate them for any costs incurred.

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Responses

  1. First let me acknowledge this publication is indeed good and highlights how the Park is involving communities in collaborative management of Mole National Park.

    I would like to use the opportunity to draw your attention to the fact that, the designation of Mole is not a Game Reserve but a National Park. These are two distinct categorisation of protected areas and administer different management practices.

    Thanks again for the article

    • Thank you for your comments and clrification.


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