On 14th June 1993, a Ministerial Order was passed prohibiting the renewal of logging, agricultural and mining titles in this region which is adjacent to Congo's Atlantic coast. The following year, the Government of Congo and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) signed a cooperation agreement aiming to produce a zoning plan for the area. This resulted in the creation of the Conkouati Douli National Park on 11th August 1999. The Park covers an area of 504,950 hectares and consists of both inland and coastal areas.
There are a total of thirteen villages in or around the Park containing a number of different ethnic groups, the largest of them being the Vili and the Lumbu. The Vili are traditionally fishermen who came to region in the 18th Century and inhabit the coastal areas where they fish in coastal lagoons. The Lumbu are mainly forest-based hunter-gatherers who have been present in the region for less than 100 years. All these groups moved to this region in search of work in connection with the construction of the Pointe-Noire-Brazzaville Railway, or in logging companies (Hecketsweiler & Mokoko Ikongo 1991).
According to documents dating back to 1999, the Park is divided into ten zones with five different protection statuses: two zones for full protection; two partially protected zones (former logging concessions); two multiple use zones (active logging concessions), three eco development zones; and a marine zone. Sadly, these zones have been poorly defined in terms of their geographical scope, the activities authorised within each zone and the confused legal bases for the management of the area. These problems have led to a number of conflicts between park authorities and local communities concerning restrictions on hunting and fishing as well as devastation of plantations by elephants. Moreover, intensive over-fishing of the coast by Chinese trawlers is having a real impact on fish stocks which are a vital resource for local communities.
In order to address these land- and resource-related conflicts, government agencies, in partnership with conservation organisations currently responsible for the management of the Park, have developed a new draft zoning plan which divides the Park into zones with well-defined natural limits: (1) one fully protected zone (marine and inland) which excludes all human habitation; (2) an eco-development zone in which sustainable and controlled exploitation of natural resources by the park's residents can be authorised; and (3) a 5km buffer zone outside the protected area in order to mitigate impacts in the area.
The communities in and around the Park are using participatory mapping to support them in exercising their rights and defending their interests in the process of validation of the new zoning plan. They have produced maps that are helping them to express the importance of their lands and resources to local authorities and other decision makers, in order to encourage their active participation in the ongoing decision making processes.