Natural resource use in Virunga neighbouring villages.

Virunga National park located in Eastern DRC is among the richest protected area in terms of animals and plants. Some of these species cannot be found every where apart from the Virunga surrounding regions (e.g. Gorillas).
Covering about 8,000sqkm, Virunga Park is surrounded by a populated region which might be among the highest in DRC – up to 350 habitant/km². In these different areas, natural resources are the most used as about 80% of rural areas in DRC depend on agriculture and use firewood as source of energy.
In order to get firewood, local communities are obliged to get into the park –in most of the surrounding areas – and get some trees cut down for survival purposes. Besides firewood, charcoal is also the main forest killer in the area as the Park is surrounded by 3 big towns (Goma, Butembo and Beni) and others cities (Kiwanja, Rutshuru, Kasindi, etc.) where charcoal is the most used in different households for cooking.
In other areas where there are still some patches of forest, people are cutting down forests for timber, charcoal and firewood.

Picture 1 – How do we carry firewood?

Surrounding communities as future threats to protected forests
Protecting Parks and forests is seen as a management purpose than a common benefit in Africa and especially in DRC.
The forest on community lands is reducing every day and year leaving behind the protected areas as lonely and isolated forested areas.
Even if the forest on community lands is finished, local communities and surrounding towns’ population will still need charcoal, firewood and timber and the only place to get these will be into the protected areas. That’s the future threat towards natural resource exploitation in the Virunga region.
And this is more serious when you consider the birth rates of the areas and their economic status!
More threats towards conservationist than how it is now!

Picture 2 – Deforested areas

Actions to be taken for both sides
In order to get this threat reduced, there is need of working on both sides – developing incentives in the community areas and actions for resources sharing with neighbouring communities on the community side and protection of resource with community on the other side.
Among solutions, get networks organized for community and individual plantations for timber products for communities.
To manage to get people committed to such activities, there is need of technical and financial supports.


Picture 3 –Need to work together to stop the deforestation of the park.

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  1. Posted May 7, 2008 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    Is the International Red Cross and Red Cresent working in this area? I believe they have a program in the capital, where small plots of land are cultivated for crops, by the locals. Can they be engaged to help with this project, as well?

  2. Deo Kujirakwinja
    Posted May 8, 2008 at 4:51 am | Permalink

    Yes the Red Cross is working in the area in the emergency and health activities. We are trying to get the humanitarian NGOs into conservation work – which is not easy!
    I’m not really aware of their activities related to sustainable agriculture.

  3. Posted May 8, 2008 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for this update. I just came across an org with a great website on the Congo:

  4. Posted May 17, 2008 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

    Dipesh, great website, thanks. Plenty to read and learn. Deo, I hear what you are saying. So by donating, we could help support an existing or start a plantation? Can you tell us more on this subject. What about growing sweet sorghum, it can be used to make flat bread and the unedible part can be used for biofuel. Just tell me your ideas…I would love to help, lets say in 3 weeks time.

  5. Deo Kujirakwinja
    Posted May 20, 2008 at 3:23 am | Permalink

    Thanks Theresa. I’m sorry I was on the field. In our area, most of households in the surrounding areas of the Park use mainly firewood for cooking. In that perspective, there is need of supporting local tree nursery initiatives to grow more trees and sensitize local poeple who owns big pieces of land so that they can propote some individual plantations. There is also need of supporting a local network which is promoting tree plantation and selling.
    The sorghum growing is not much in the region as it is used in local beer brewing and the unedible parts are used for biofertilization of the land and goat feeding… The great need of people is at local level get firewood but also make money from the plantations (selling firewood and make charcoal for surrounding cities). Thanks

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