Supporting associations

Saving the Popenguine Nature Reserve

Protecting and restoring the ecosystems within the nature reserve through a participatory management plan and the development of economic alternatives

Saving the Popenguine Nature Reserve

Project leader
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Duration of the partnership


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The project and its challenges

Over the course of 60 years, Senegal’s ecosystems have been significantly degraded due to pressure caused by human activities: The country’s forests have shrunk from 11 million hectares to only 6.3 million hectares. In Popenguine, this degradation is caused by droughts and land pressure, among other things, which directly threaten a coastal savannah forest ecosystem rich in flora and fauna.

Established in 1986, the community driven Popenguine Nature Reserve is the only nature reserve on the Senegalese coast, with an area of 1009 hectares of savannah forest. Today, it is one of the only conservation areas in Senegal. Protecting it is crucial for the local people who live around this biodiversity hotspot. It is managed by COPRONAT (the Collective of Women’s Groups for the Protection of Nature), which also owns the tourism camp Keur Cuupam next to the reserve. However, COPRONAT sorely lacks the technical and financial resources to fulfil its mission in partnership with the officers of the Direction des Parcs Nationaux (Senegal’s national park service).

Therefore, in 2018, COPRONAT sought Nebeday’s technical and financial support to help it take action to protect and restore the reserve.

Thanks to financial support from the MDM Foundation from 2018 to 2021, Nebeday launched a project to protect and restore the reserve through a participatory management plan, an environmental education campaign and the development of economic alternatives.

Reviewing partnership results:

  • Revitalisation of the 8 villages: via an awareness programme (reaching 800 children) and participation in activities to restore the reserve
  • Protection and growth of the reserve: with the creation of 2 watering holes for the animals, 2 observation posts and a tree nursery, as well as 14,762 local tree and palm tree species being planted in and around the nature reserve
  • Supporting women in establishing economic alternatives by:
    • Refurbishing the Keur Cuupam ecotourism camp to host tourists
    • Establishing ecotourism routes within the reserve 
    • Planting an organic market garden within the camp, and building a greenhouse
    • Setting up agroforestry training and constructing a moringa and mango processing unit


The MDM Foundation is renewing its partnership with Nebeday for two years in order to consolidate and scale up the project throughout the Thiès region of Senegal.

Through this renewed partnership, the association will be able to continue raising awareness among local populations about the importance of protecting the nature reserve and expanding the local economy, through ecotourism and the development of various sustainable sectors: moringa leaf powder, monkey bread (fruit from the baobab tree), bissap, honey, fish, shellfish and more. Promoting the nature reserve as much as possible and empowering the local people have been identified as the two most effective methods of protecting the reserve, given the limited financial support it receives.

The project targets for 2022–2023 are as follows:

  • Develop ecotourism in and around the nature reserve by supporting meetings between villages
  • Develop sustainable economic sectors within five agroforestry perimeters
  • Strengthen awareness and support for the reserve and nature protection in general through initiatives offered to 40 schools in the region

The Beneficiaries of the Project

The direct beneficiary of the project is the COPRONAT women’s groups collective, made up of 1500 women from 8 villages. They manage the Keur Cuupam camp and are also involved in awareness-raising (films and debates), planting and agroforestry activities.

The inhabitants of the eight villages adjacent to the reserve, particularly the children, also benefit from the actions of the Nebeday programme. In phase 2, the project will be rolled out to the entire Thiès region.

The Pros of the Project

The Nebeday approach is based on participatory work to strengthen and empower women’s communities, in a pressing situation and with a timely intervention in severely threatened ecosystems.

The project is a direct response to a request from the President of COPRONAT and the urgent need to take action to protect the nature reserve. 

The Popenguine reserve is the last natural area on the southern coast of Dakar and is subject to great external pressure. Protecting the Popenguine reserve means offering it a chance to survive the real estate pressure in the area so that the Petite Côte can benefit from one last natural area.

Jean Goepp Director of Nébéday
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Project leader Nébéday

Nébéday is an association, created in 2011, which acts for the participative management of natural resources by and for local populations.

The aim is to protect natural resources but also to promote them with activities that are organised around protected areas.

The setting up of different sectors to promote natural resources helps to raise awareness among local populations about the need for the sustainable management of resources and the development of the local economy.