One photo – One story

Protecting wildlife from poachers

Morgan Mupenda is a police officer in Zambia. He heads the Rhino Monitoring Group at the Zambia Wildlife Authority in the North Luangwa National Park. He is using his hand-held antenna to locate black rhinos tagged with a transmitter, to track their movements and help protect them from poachers.

Rhinos and medicine

There were once 12,000 of these splendid animals in Zambia. Today they have virtually been wiped out, chiefly through poaching. The demand for rhino horn is particularly strong in Asia, where ground horn is used among other things as a status symbol and supposedly to cure cancer – even though there is no proof that it has any effect.

Together with the Frankfurt Zoological Society, Germany has for many years been supporting the protection of rhinos in the national park. Although the animals had virtually been wiped out, it has since been possible to establish over two dozen rhinoceroses once again. In this setting infrastructure development, reforestation and burgeoning tourism are also creating job opportunities and prospects for the local population. Since leaving school nine years ago, Morgan Mupenda has been working to protect these animals.

To complement this Germany is supporting measures to reduce the demand for poached horn. More horn is bought In Viet Nam than in any other country. Through the GIZ and the non-governmental wildlife monitoring network TRAFFIC, the German government is in dialogue with the agency responsible for traditional medicine at the Vietnamese Ministry of Health. These activities aim to jointly raise public awareness of poaching and the threat posed to rhinos, as well as alternative treatment methods.

Preserving our forests

One of the most crucial functions of forests is their ability to store carbon dioxide, which curbs climate change. For this reason forestry student Shofan Nasrullah is measuring the circumference of a tree in East Kalimantan in Indonesia, to calculate just how much carbon dioxide the forest is capable of storing.

A new source of income from sustainable forest management

Here the aim is to place a financial value on stored carbon dioxide. To achieve this, local inhabitants are being given an opportunity to earn additional income by protecting and sustainably managing the forest.

The Indonesian government’s actions to mitigate climate change include comprehensive reforms in the Indonesian forestry sector, such as the introduction of forestry offices to organise land rights and deliver services to the local population. The offices will also regulate access to the forest and its resources fairly, and at the same time monitor the forest in order to prevent illegal activities.

These reforms are the outcome of the German government's cooperation with Indonesia in the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) programme under the Framework Convention on Climate Change. The programme is designed to change the way people think. Forests that are not cleared and remain intact possess financial value for mitigating climate change. They are also able to continue performing their manifold tasks, which include preventing erosion, storing water, preserving biological diversity, and providing their inhabitants with both a place to live and livelihoods.

Sustainable ocean use

Moulaye Wagne is a researcher from the Mauritanian Institute for Oceanography and Fisheries (IMROP). Together with a team from the Banc d’Arguin National Park, he is examining a shellfish for changes caused by pollutants.

Preserving the abundance of natural resources

In a programme in Mauritania supported by the German government, Moulaye is studying how to demonstrate the presence of toxic substances in living organisms. Since mussels filter a very large amount of water they respond particularly sensitively to changes, and are a very good indicator of pollutants contained in water.

Moulaye's research forms part of the first early warning system in Africa to monitor the negative impacts on marine organisms of oil and gas extraction off the cost of Mauritania. The project can also demonstrate indirectly whether industry is taking sufficient measures to protect against pollution and damage to the marine ecosystem.

One million people – a third of the country's population – live along the coast of Mauritania. Preserving fisheries is key to feeding these people. Like the sustainable management of natural resources, protecting the ocean against pollutants is crucial to the country's future. As well as this research project, the German government is therefore also supporting the sustainable management of natural resources and sustainable fisheries.

Benefits for all

Since the 13th century, the Berber women in Morocco have been cultivating the Argan tree. They gather the fruit, remove the flesh and from the small seeds they press a high grade oil which is used in traditional medicine and the cosmetic industry.

Progress from ancient knowledge

This oil is now in increasing demand in Europe too, not least since the latest research results show that it might prevent both cardiovascular diseases and wrinkles.

The Access and Benefit-sharing approach was developed to enable the Berber women, other indigenous peoples and local communities worldwide to share in the profits from marketing their countries’ natural genetic resources, and their knowledge on how to exploit them. It aims to create legislation that will regulate access to natural resources, while at the same time enabling the local population to participate in the profits generated and the knowledge gained from further research. By doing so the ABS approach also aims to create paths out of poverty.

The women in Morocco have also succeeded in marketing the argan oil in Europe. Germany is supporting the women's cooperatives by providing further training, and at the national level is supporting the drafting of legislation to regulate access to these resources.

Mekong Delta: The forest is returning

The forest is returning to the Mekong Delta

The raised bamboo walkway is only half a metre wide. With every step taken it squeaks and sways a little. Thach Soal walks along the wooden path and points to the ground. "Until 1992 there were houses here," the 66-year-old farmer says, "but they were destroyed in a heavy storm."

Nothing is left to show that once there were buildings here. Instead a thick mangrove forest now grows here, with plants up to two metres high. Their fan-like roots have burrowed deep into the ground. The knee-high walkway is meant to ensure that the villagers do not damage the roots on their way to the sea.

The village of Au Tho B in Viet Nam's Mekong Delta is the site of a field experiment. The idea is that the mangroves will stop the advancing sea and protect the land that lies behind them. National and local authorities together with the inhabitants of the coastal villages affected by the encroaching sea are involved in the project. The region is very severely threatened by climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has even identified Viet Nam as one of the worst affected of all countries.

Threatened by climate change

Vast areas of the Mekong Delta lie less than one metre above sea level. The rising sea level and the increasing frequency of extreme weather are a growing threat for the region. If sea water floods the fields at high tide or in a storm, they cannot be used for agriculture for years afterwards. In this part of Viet Nam, an important area for growing rice and the country's third-biggest economic region, that is a serious problem. The population density is also high: about one fifth of the country's entire population, roughly 17 million people, lives here.

The protective mangroves often used to end up as firewood. Viet Nam's authorities have long been aware of the problem. They began replanting coastal mangrove forests that had been destroyed back in the 1990s. In Au Tho B there was nothing left back then of the natural forest that had once covered almost the entire coastline in this part of Viet Nam. However, the newly planted mangroves did not thrive. "Back then the people did not give any thought to the environment," says Thach Soal. Apparently many people chopped down the mangroves for firewood or to sell the wood in the market, even though it was forbidden. As a result the mangrove forest did not grow thickly and was not really able to hold back the constantly advancing sea.

German activities

Because of that, since 2011, the German development cooperation programme has taken a different approach: the local people are directly involved in managing the mangroves. The inhabitants of the coastal villages that are involved in the reafforestation have privileged access to the mangrove forest. They are the only ones allowed to collect dead wood and to catch crabs, fish and other sea creatures. At the same time this is the least expensive way to manage the forest.

In Au Tho B this approach has clearly worked: "We now understand that we benefit when we protect the forest together, so we do it of our own accord," says Thach Soal, who – like many farmers in the region – grows onions and chilli peppers among other crops in his fields. He is the spokesperson for a group that GIZ helped found in order to organise the management of the mangrove forests. The group is open to all the people living in the village. Anyone interested in becoming a member does, however, need to give an undertaking to attend the regular meetings and to keep the rules for protecting the mangroves.


"Since the project began our income has risen by about 60 per cent," says Thach Soal. The money earned by selling fish and crabs, and wood collected in the forest has increased considerably. The challenges of climate change will remain for some time to come. Although, as Thach Soal tells us, the region has not experienced a bad storm since 1997, heavy flooding continues to occur.

However, the farmers now worry much less about saltwater getting into their fields and causing severe damage to the soil. "Sometimes we hear the waves beating against the mangroves at night – they’re really loud. But we are no longer afraid of the water."

In Focus: the Caribbean

Maintaining biological diversity in the Caribbean – on land and at sea

The natural riches of the Caribbean are unique. The United Nations calls the countries in this region a "biodiversity superpower". However, that biodiversity is in danger because all too often not enough attention is being paid to preserving it. Furthermore, the islands of the Caribbean, situated just on the edge of the storm-swept Atlantic Ocean, are particularly affected by the impacts of climate change.

An ambitious project that the German government is supporting is seeking to protect the continued existence of this diverse ecosystem.

A region under threat

Extreme weather events are literally eating away the coastlines of the many, often small, islands. Storms and floods destroy not only roads and houses but also agricultural land. Furthermore, since 1980, one third of the coral reefs which are located off the coasts of these islands, forming an important natural barrier against incoming waves and storm surges, have disappeared.

Income from the water

One of the traditional main lines of business on the islands, namely fishing, is affected by the destruction of the reefs. They are one of the world's most biodiverse habitats. However, overfishing and untreated wastewater are threatening this unique underwater world, which is an important source of livelihood for many of the people who live there, and which attracts tourists from all over the world. An intact natural environment is one of the most important attractions that the Caribbean has to offer and provides many people with work and the means to survive.

Acting holistically

In the Caribbean the land and the ocean are one unit. The project Caribbean Aqua-Terrestrial Solutions (CATS) therefore has the aim of protecting the natural environment as a whole. The ridge-to-reef concept – from the rainforests in the mountains to the coral reefs in the sea – takes into account the impact of sustainable agriculture and sustainable forest use, including water supply and wastewater management, on the ecosystems on land and in the ocean.

Protecting biodiversity together

Supported by the German government, the governments of eight Caribbean countries are working with representatives from local businesses and civil society on this programme. Joint action to protect biological diversity is urgently needed, but is not easy to achieve. This is because the Caribbean countries are spread across almost three million square kilometres, which is eight times the area covered by Germany. There are about 40 million people living here on more than 7,000 islands, with very different traditions, administrative structures and economic interests.

Sea and land belong together

Traditionally, the most important economic activity in the Caribbean was agriculture, which is now in second place after the tourism industry and is therefore still of key importance for the people in the region. Agroforestry plays a key role for biological diversity as well. The plants and trees that are grown protect against soil erosion, but agroforestry is responsible for harmful fertilisers flowing via streams and rivers into offshore coastal zones and marine protected areas. That is why the German government is also supporting the area in switching over to sustainable agricultural practices, including water-saving irrigation methods and measures for enhanced water quality.

Marine reserves

As part of the programme, marine protected areas are also being set up in collaboration with local inhabitants and the authorities. In the island state of Saint Lucia a community-based pilot project to protect leatherback turtles that lay their eggs along the Atlantic coast began in 2014. In addition to biodiversity protection the project gives the local people new prospects: whereas before they may have lived by poaching, now they are trained gamekeepers dedicated to protecting the turtles.

These efforts have been crowned with success: poaching has decreased significantly, the protected areas attract environmental tourists and new sources of income have opened up for the local people in hotels, catering, transport and agriculture, because the visitors also create demand for such services.

Understanding and appreciating diversity

In order for the programme to continue to be successful, the younger generation is also being included: schools are integrating the topic of sustainability into their teaching plans. In "summer camps" pupils learn all about the marine protected areas. One way that this is done is through swimming and snorkelling lessons at the coral reef. These activities are fun – and they teach children about the treasures of nature on their own doorstep.