A national park inside Abidjan helps biodiversity and people
Cities all over the world are home to iconic parks. Central Park in New York City. Hyde Park in London. The Imperial Palace Gardens in Tokyo. These expanses of green help city dwellers in many ways – regulating temperatures, cleaning the air, and providing space to connect with nature.
But there are not many cities that host a national park.
This is the case in Abidjan, the capital city of Cote d’Ivoire. Once a small fishing village, it is now a vibrant metropolis with more than 5 million residents. It is also home to Banco National Park, a sprawling green space 10 times the size of Central Park and surrounded on all sides by the hustle and bustle of urban life.
Banco is the epicenter of ambitious efforts to protect a rich pocket of biodiversity. Across its 600 hectares of primary forests, park residents include nearly 100 rare or endangered species, seven of which are only known in Cote d’Ivoire. The park holds significant spiritual, recreational, scientific, and educational value. It also supplies around 40 percent of the city’s drinking water needs.
Yet Banco is also under pressure from a growing urban population, air pollution, and underdeveloped infrastructure.
On a recent visit to Cote d’Ivoire, the Global Environment Facility’s CEO and Chairperson Carlos Manuel Rodriguez learned about efforts to conserve endangered species and allow ecosystems to thrive in the park, while also creating new employment opportunities for people living nearby.
“Here we’ve got this unique tropical ecosystem right next to a large urban area. Protecting biodiversity is important not just for the sake of this ecosystem, but also this is a very valuable green area right next to Abidjan,” Rodriguez said.
The GEF and UN Environment Programme have been working with leaders in Cote d’Ivoire to raise awareness about the full range of benefits the park affords, locally and on a wider scale.
Banco is a source of sustainable livelihoods for many city residents, including young people, who work as tourist guides, maintenance experts, citizen scientists, and more. These opportunities are expected to continue in the coming years as more people visit the park, with tourist spending directly benefiting nearby communities.
Local village chief Nanan Kouassi Toto Jean Aké said there were many positives of living next to this green gem of a park. “I thank God for this project, and the activities carried out within it,” he said. “We live because the forest gives us air.”