Going to meet fishermen in Tridom Gabon
The Djoua river is remote. It takes our WWF-Gabon team three days to get to Mazingo on the river, where we are greeted by the local chief. The village chief takes us to a school where we stayed the night. The Djoua river is a suspected highway for ivory smuggling from Gabon to Cameroon and the TRIDOM Gabonteam wants to establish a program here. The aim of our mission is to see what the main activities of the population are and how we can collaborate with them.
As we emerge from the green tangle, a beautiful river stretches out in front of us. Big hornbills fly overhead, grey parrots are chattering over the forest and monkeys clamber in the trees along the river. After 2 hours, we reach the first fishing camp and the fishermen are happy to provide us space to pitch our tents.
The camp was built by a family that fishes in the dry season to smoke fish which they sell to traders on the river. Fishing here is not yet too crowded. But according to the chief of Mazingo there are problems. Some fishermen use unauthorized methods. They also do not respect the agreed boundaries between communities. More people are coming in to fish. The government is wholly absent here so this river may become overfished very soon. The fishing camps we visit express their wish that an NGO like WWF establishes itself here to assist in organizing community fishing arrangements. We see many children in the camps, lots of babies but also school age kids, so community development, including education will be an important part of any program here.
Poaching however does not seem to be too much of an issue. We count not a single cartridge during our hike in the forest and the monkeys frolic just around our camp. When we ask if they are not hunted, we are told ‘the cartridges are too expensive’. With fishing still more lucrative than hunting, this is a good moment to interact. With a community based fishing program, we can work with the communities toprevent the river being overfished and abused for illegal trafficking of ivory.
On our way back we meet the local authorities, the ministry, the national parks agency, all are in favor of WWF installing itself in the region. We agree to start with recruiting a community liaison officer to engage with the communities on the river to further develop the program. So the Djoua will remain the pristine river it is today, with plentiful fish for the local communities and free from ivory trafficking.