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.
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!
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.