Virunga National Park located in the Eastern of the Democratic Republic of Congo is managed by ICCN with support from different International NGO. While it enhabits several species and endemic species, this protected area is facing different problems from various stakeholders. As the whole surrounding countries relay on natural resources to survive: timber, firewood, medecinal plants, water in some areas; there are most of the time confrontations between Managers and local communities.
People are collecting resources from the Virunga for various reasons:
About 90% of local communitites surrounding Virunga Park are farmers with small lands and traditionnal means and technics. They most of them producing for their basic needs and the supplement is sold to get some cash to fulfil other needs like medication, school fees for their kids, etc. Some of theme are using Park land to get more profits or they settle within the Park and leave their original lands. This has been one of the difficult conflict to solve as at some cases. The poaching is also one mean used by some communities to get meat as animal protein source for the family. This has been said, some communities are poaching because they’ve lost their animals and need meat; others are doing that as their habit. People are collecting firewood from the Park either illegally (none is allowed to collect something from the Park as it is classified under the UICN category of National park but also, as directed by the DRC conservation law) or “legally” (in some areas, as a response to the local communities pressure, the Park Manager has agreed to allow firewood collection at weekly basis but without a legal frame).
Some actions could be useful at this stage as like to help local communities to develop agroforestry techniques so that they don’t rely on Park resources much, but also get the two parties to have a memorandum of understanding about firewood collection and design a management mechanism about it as there is none for now. The only limit is logistics which is a good help to allow us making this link.
2. for cash
These resources harvested are not used only for basic needs in some places by some actors. Most of illegal resource harvesting done by armed groups is for commercial purposes. They do collect different products including animals which are killed in order to be sold as bushmeat or for their trophies and ivories. This has a direct effect on animal population as the number decreases when there is heavy poaching and less antipoaching actions conducted by park rangers and funds available for ranger rations and field equipments.
Local communities are also using some local agreement (firewood collection) to get money instead of using the different resources for their households direct benefit. For example, firewood collected is being sold instead of being used. This is also the case even regarding some crops, people are cultivating and harvest for sale and then buy food from other areas, even if it’s expensive compared to their villages.
This is the destructive exploitation of resources in the Park as it involves armed people and targets theratened species.
3. for their own activities
Other members of local communities are harvesting resources from the Park to develop their own work as they are using medecinal plants to heal people or using wild materials to make some products to be sold: baskets, mats, etc.
These people are easy to work with as they are willing to protect their basic materials and continue getting money from their expertise. Some of them are making honey and don’t have required equipments to be competitive with other products, others are making souvenirs, etc.
Help park people to work with community in 2008