My name is Rebecca Kormos. I am a primatologist with over 25 years of experience working in conservation in West and Central Africa. I have just launched a “gofundme” campaign to raise money to educate girls and women in several rural villages in the Fouta Djallon highlands of Guinea. I traveled throughout this region twenty years ago when I was conducting a nationwide chimpanzee survey from 1995-1997. In this region I found the largest population of chimpanzee in all West Africa. One of the main reasons for their continued existence was that the people living here did not hunt or eat chimpanzees because of local taboos.
In September 2017, I returned to some of the areas I had visited twenty years previous. I was excited to find that the chimpanzees were still living close to the villages as before. What was tragic to me however, was that so little had changed for the people since the last time I was there two decades ago.
Guinea remains one of the poorest countries in the world (183 out of 188 countries on the UN Human Development Index) and it was hit incredibly hard by the terrifying Ebola virus just a few years ago. It is shocking to me that in Guinea still only 12% of women over the age of fifteen are literate.
My friend and colleague Saliou Diallo founded a national conservation NGO in Guinea, called Guinée Écologie 25 years ago. He and his colleague Mamadou Diawara Diallo have been working in several villages in the Fouta Djallon to create community conservation initiatives to empower the people to protect the chimpanzees. Guinée Écologie is also working to increase the protected status of the adjacent Saala forest complex that provides sanctuary to chimpanzees in a network of hills, forest corridors, and a riverine forest surrounding a spectacular waterfall (see photo above!) Saliou is also raising funds to build a school and launch a program for women's literacy and girls’ education and I have committed to help him raise these funds through this gofundme campaign.
The funds I raise will go direct to the local NGO Guinée Écologie to build the school, pay the salaries of teachers, purchase teaching materials and supplies for students, construct separate girl’s toilets and to construct a well adjacent to the school.
The number of chimpanzees in West Africa has plummeted by 80% in the last 24 years. Chimpanzees have already disappeared from several countries within their former range and in other countries there are only a few hundred or a few thousand left. In the Republic of Guinea however, there are still an estimated 18,000 chimpanzees, most of whom are living in the Fouta Djallon highlands of Guinea. This area is therefore one of our last hopes for their survival.
Your donation to this project will help change the lives of the women and girls in these villages by providing them with an education. It will also contribute to the conservation of the chimpanzees living in the adjacent forest. Thank you so much for your support and help passing this link on to friends and colleagues.
In April 2018, I will be traveling to Guinea again to make a film about the chimpanzees of Guinea with award winning filmmaker Kalaynee Mam and founder of the NGO Guinee Ecologie Mamadou Saliou Diallo with funding from the National Geographic Society. We will be visiting the project site then, and I will have the opportunity to update you all on how it is going!
Thank you so much!