LIFE OF PEOPLE SAVING WILDLIFE AND DIFFICULTIES
As stated in my first post, Virunga National Park is the oldest Park in Africa created in 1925 and recognised by UNESCO as a World heritage Site in 1979. To enable its protection, the Park is managed by a public Institution which has been weakened by the different socioeconomic crisis’s in the eastern DRC.
The ICCN (Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature) has employed more than 600 rangers to protect the Park. These rangers are working everyday and living with their families in the ranger posts inside the Park. Most of these rangers have wives and children.
In our recent census in one ranger post (28 rangers), the average of household is 9. Rangers have been working since the creation of the Park and are paid less now despite the bonus given to them by International NGOs.
The effect of the civil war is still harming the park and field staff. There have been more than 100 rangers killed and many others injured.
Most of the Park infrastructure has been destroyed by the effect of war. Therefore, rangers are living in huts which they have to build themselves made by mud and grass. I have been working with the ICCN to try the best and get some ranger posts renovated but there is a lot to do to improve the conditions for the rangers who are working for the worldwide richness by protecting the park but living in bad conditions.
Kabasha after construction
It is very difficult to imagine that people are still living under these circumstances.
It’s difficult to support conservation activities without thinking about people lives. As workers, rangers are being badly/less paid even though there is a support from International NGOs to try to supplement their thin and unimaginable salaries. The overall life in Africa is not only based on salaries but also on economic activities which can supplement the household budget. Rangers wives have been doing several things in order to get the household’s life better: some are selling local beer, fish, basic manufactured products, others are selling agricultural products. They needed to get more funds to get started in case there is one of them who has failed in her business.
I have been visiting rangers since 2003, and this year I’ve been thinking of helping rangers’ wives to set up a group to enable themselves to help each other. They’ve established a local committee and they have secured 50$ from their own activities and got support from us. It has been a good time for us as we’ve got support and we’ll try to work hard to improve our activities to support our family’s life.
Lulimbi womens group in an evaluation meeting.
At local level, NGOs are supporting protected area management activities through a strong partnership. There is another idea of local conservation partnership which we are setting up. We think, as conservationist workers, we are getting revenues from services which are paid to us by NGOs where we are employees. There is also need of helping other conservationists who are suffering because their fathers are working in Virunga. So, as workers we’ve put in place a monthly basket to enable us to assist rangers and their family but in a social way. Some conservation NGO workers are giving monthly amount and plan to support some social actions in the Park.
In most of the Park stations, they are schools put in place to cater/educate rangers’ children, but they don’t get any support.
This quarter, we’ve been able to assist a school for Rangers’ children in Kabaraza with pens, pencils, chalks and exercise books. This is one of the cases but there is need to support the other 4 ranger stations in the Virunga NP.
Types of donated school supplies
School facilities donated for the ranger’s children
The situation is much more complicated than we think!