idea behind the Ballabu Conservation Project of Gambia
is to establish an 85 sq. km nature reserve for wildlife
which encompasses 14 villages in which each village
will be designated a community forest park to maintain
as well as some local craft or eco-industries such as
lodges, agro-projects, skills centres and recycling
projects. The parks are located in such a way so as
to give create a natural strip of land as a passageway
for wild animals to freely move around between villages.
The Ballabu Conservation area is located on the South
bank of the River
Gambia and will extend north up to Banjul. To achieve
its aims the Makasutu
Wildlife Trust had set up the Ballabu Wildlife Conservation
Trust in late 2006.
Another goal of Ballabu is to help reduce poverty
among the local population through sustainable development
and all projects will eventually pass on to the community
to be wholly owned and operated.
The concept of the Ballabu Conservation Project is to
create an 85sq kilometre conservation area, incorporating
14 Gambian villages. Each village will have a community
forest park established, as well as some form of industry
such as eco lodges, recycling plants, skill
training centres, agriculture or livestock. The
forest parks will also deliberately link up to create
a wildlife corridor to allow the safe passage of animals
through the villages.
The aim of the project is to alleviate poverty for the
local people by making each village self-sustaining.
These projects will be 100 percent community owned with
the profits going into community development projects
in the form of water resources, education, healthcare
and renewable energy. Still at an early stage, the focus
is currently on funding, but it is hoped that community
tours through the area will be offered from November
07 to highlight the plight of rural Gambia to visitors
to the country.
The two UK founders of Makasutu,
Lawrence Williams and James English, are the brains
behind the project and are strengthening support and
partnerships for the scheme both in The Gambia and overseas.
The Eden Project is an educational charity in Cornwall
and is home to the world's largest rainforest in captivity.
Recently Don Murray, curator of the Rainforest Biome,
visited Makasutu and attended the inaugural meeting
of the Ballabu Conservation Area.
Don Murray said:
surrounding villages and seeing for myself the support
Makasutu has from the village Elders and District
Chief has been fantastic. It really brings home that
the 21st century demands the very best from us all
as we try and tackle climate change, drought, poverty
and many other issues. There is nothing more positive
than seeing the Ballabu initiative coming together
and visualising the positive effects it could have
on the villages - it gives me real hope."
Through the Eden Project's relationships with similar
projects from around the world it will offer guidance
to the Ballabu Conservation Project
specifically on areas to do with conservation, reforestation,
social enterprise and will also highlight the work of
Ballabu through an exciting exhibit within the Rainforest
The Mandina Lodges at Makasutu
(Makasutu meaning holy forest) are themselves situated
on a private 1,000-acre reserve located on a small bolong
/ tributary off the River
Gambia, which Lawrence and James have protected
and developed since 1992. Holidaymakers visiting Makasutu
can choose to stay in one of their three Jungle Lodges
(third jungle lodge very recently completed), four Floating
Lodges or one Stilted Lodge. The lodges and river were
featured on the front cover of the June 2006 edition
of the Bradt guide to The Gambia.