Our first project outside of the Amazon is in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo. We’re working in Maniema, the country’s most remote province. Maniema comes from the Bangubangu word my-nyuema meaning forest.
The Congo Basin is the world’s second largest rainforest and more than half of this forest lies in DRC. Despite its turbulent past, it has the longest history of conservation in Africa and formed the continent’s first national park in 1925. But conservation has not always been in the interest of the local people. Our five partner villages were expelled from the two neighbouring National Parks of Maiko and Kahuzi-Biega when they were created.
The greatest threat to the project’s forest is poverty. Civil war has left DRC ranked bottom of the Human Development Index. Over 2.6 million people remain displaced, the majority of these in the east. We’re working to boost local incomes through agro-forestry to ensure that this time, the people who live in the forest benefit from keeping it standing.
Our focus to date has been on improving our partners’ rights over their forest. We’ve trained 45 local people in GPS mapping and plotted 600,000 acres of community forest. This will form a buffer for the two neighbouring under-funded national parks.
Our aim for Lubutu is to build a shield for 4 million acres of rainforest, making it the largest community-led project in Africa.