Mont Hoyo: a Forgotten Site for conservation and tourism

DSCF0026.JPGBambou.JPG

The Mont Hoyo is located in Eastern DRC (E 1.24750 – N 29.80918) at 125 km far from beni town in Irumu territory, ranging from 1300 m to 1500 m of elevation.

Mont Hoyo is among touristic areas which had some socioeconomic impacts on local communities livelihoods. With different armed crisis and presence of different factions of militias, it has been abandoned by tour operators and ICCN (the Congolese conservation agency) followed by people displacement.

ICCN left the site in 1996 during the first liberation war led by Mzee Laurent Kabila and local population left the area in 2002. They are resettling now from the different IDPs (Internal Displaced People) camps.

Mont Hoyo has been created in 1947 and there is no clear idea about its richness in terms of fauna and flora a part from the tourism attraction about graves.

Information collected on ground states that there is some animals present there such as Okapi, warthog, porcupine, pangolin, chimpanzee, elephant, etc.

Mont Hoyo was among the best destination for visitors and there has been a wonderful guest house, some people who has visited it said.

Two main groups inhabit the surrounding areas of Mont Hoyo: Lesse group and Pygmies and their local economy depends on tourism. Nowadays, they are trying to resettle but there is no sign of economic activities. Their main activities are agriculture and hunting. The nearest market where they can go sell their goods is located at 25 km!

pygmee camp.JPGDeo&pygmee.JPG

Pygmy camp (about 34 people) Pygmy with Deo

During our last travel to Mont Hoyo, we had to walk for 13.5 km two ways (=27 km) in order to reach the summit. The road is bad conditions and it cannot be used even by a motorcycle. There are about 13 small bridges to be rehabilitated and 1 long one (12 m).

bridge_monthoyo.JPG

During our travel, there is no where you can buy even a sweet or small snacks! But, everyone is praying so that ICCN can come back as it’s the only way the Mont can be reopened and revive the tourism activities.

Unfortunately, due to the absence of ICCN, who is lacking field equipments for rangers to be deployed in the area, there is a traditional and armed poaching going on against monkeys and duikers.

Bushmeat.JPG

It’s a wonderful place where you can visit graves and get to know about Pygmies and their life. But there are some actions to be done before with support from everyone who wants this site to be renewed: bridges renovation, house renovation, field equipments for trackers (rangers), support to local communities, etc.

guesthouse_MontHoyo.JPGview of the grave.JPG

Mont Hoyo Guest house View of the grave

How communities can help to protect Wildlife

During this two weeks, we’ve been conducting biological surveys in Semuliki area (Virunga National park). I got to look for cutters and trackers who coils help us to get into the forest to find our lines.

Semuliki forest 022.JPG

Later on, I discovered that the people we were using are organised into a local association called OAN (Organisation des Amis de la Nature = Organisation for friends of nature). Among the activities they are conducting:

chimpanzee monitoring

local communities of Mwenda have been able to protect a patch of forest closed to Mt Ruwenzori (DRC) where occur chimpanzees. They have been following these cousins of human without any support (technical or financial). They are kin monitoring chimps even if they don’t have any field equipment, field ration during monitoring or data sheet, etc.

If supported, they can help to save these threatened species of which their numbers is going down everyday.

They have field staff moving in the field everyday hiking the base of Ruwenzori.

vegetable farming

Wildlife protection is the key of their activities but they add in some other activities that can support the wildlife related activities. They’ve got some farm to grow vegetables at small scale. It’s known that the small scale agricultural activities is enough to fulfil all the food needs for the household. But when it comes to diversifying economic activities, you need to increase and improve your techniques of growing food. Thus, this local organisation needs to get different agricultural inputs to make their activity important for conservation.

tree nursing

Our country (DRC) is among countries where citizen still depend more than 95% on natural timber resources for different options without alternatives or suitable techniques. For cooking or building, the main product to use is still timber. People have to look for trees to cut to fulfil these needs. In order to reduce and make people aware of the future danger, OAN has been trying to put in place some areas to make available trees for plantation in the village. Still, the area covered and the target is still not enough.

This has been made possible in combination with public awareness and sensitisation.

DSCF0222.JPG

Charcoal made out of wood

information gathering about wildlife killing

protect wildlife doesn’t rely only on rangers or again on patrols. There is need of information gathering in order to get some targeted places chosen by poachers. This information can be made available through different channels. In this specific area (Mwenda), this local organisation is helping to provide information about different actors involved in illegal exploitation of natural resources within the Park. They collect information from different villagers and get information to managers through different ways, depending on how the manager is confident to them and dedicated to the protection of the Park.

Semuliki forest 001.JPG

So, it’s possible to protect protected areas and community forests with local organisations within the village by providing them capacity!

Fish is more a community ressource than a biologic resource

At the creation of Virunga Park, local communities used to fish in Lake Edward with traditional tools and equipment under the local management structures. During colonial period, the Park was created and included Lake Edward as part of Virunga park. As part of the culture, the Park Manager has left the fishing privilege to communities and allowed local population to fish but under a cooperative structure.

As per now, the situation has worsened and became a threat toward conservation of the Park. At the creation of the Park, there were only two fishing villages and now there are more than 15 villages. These villages has also increased in size.

Nyakakoma.jpg

Nyakakoma fishing villages 2006

If fish was biological resource, it could be more important for local communities. In the region, fish is more important as it provides different benefits:

  1. food for community in the fishing villages
  2. food for surrounding communities
  3. commercial activity for fishing population
  4. opportunity for business of manufactured products

Beside these opportunities, fish is source of conflict between different stakeholders: conservation institution, marine and infantry forces, public services, local communities and administration.

The over fishing has led people to adapt themselves to the current situation and develop survival mechanism which implies fauna poaching, armed group creation, deforestation and encroachment.

We’ve been working with the different communities to solve this conflict.

meeting.JPG

Meeting with stakeholders

This has been done through a participatory process:

  • conflict analysis
  • strategy definition
  • planning meeting
  • set up a monitoring and evaluation team
  • activity implementation

It appears that when interest of different groups are threatened, it become easy to get people involved into a resolution conflict process.

Camion poisson1.JPG

How do we go for fish?

The main interest is that local communities has noticed that fish stock has decreased and this has led to involvement of communities into the process.


Technorati : , ,

Managing natural resource conflict in Virunga

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:

  1. for basic needs

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).

DSCF0170.JPG

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.

Hyppo meat_ICCN.JPG

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.

Kongolo_snake.JPG

Help park people to work with community in 2008

LOOKING INTO ANIMAL EYES

Wildlife is more interesting when people try to look into their eyes. When you try to look into wildlife eyes, you think about their needs in terms of habitat, food, shelter, movement. When people kill wildlife, they don’t look into their eyes; they look on their bodies, shape and trophies, etc.

lion-eyes.JPG

elephant-facing.JPG

Virunga NP is facing poaching for both commercial and domestic needs in bushmeat. In order to discourage this process which can lead to species depletion, rangers carry out patrols in the Park with support from NGOs working in Conservation. This action is done also during any monitoring of wildlife in the park.

buffalo-poached.JPG

rangers-and-buffalo-poached.JPG

This has been one of the toughest missions of rangers during these two decades in Virunga Park and ICCN (Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature) has lost over 100 rangers on duty. As a consequence, there are widows and orphans without assistance.
But also, rangers are working under pressure in need of field equipments and shelter. Some of the ranger posts have been rehabilitated with partners’ support; others are still in traditional status and makes rangers vulnerable to any armed attacks as they face it frequently.

Helping rangers, saves the most biodiverse and the oldest Park of Africa!

lions-on-a-tree.JPG

deo-and-lion.JPG

We are proud of individual donors who have donated to this project and specially Robert J.G.

Endangered Species Protected By Endangered People

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.

Infrastructure

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.
pp-kabasha4.jpg

Kabasha Before

kabasha.JPG

Kabasha after construction

It is very difficult to imagine that people are still living under these circumstances.

Socioeconomic life

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.

women-group.JPG

Lulimbi womens group in an evaluation meeting.
Conservation partnership

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.

pict0227.JPG

Types of donated school supplies

pict0132.JPG

School facilities donated  for the ranger’s children

The situation is much more complicated than we think!

Protected Area Managers Learn Lessons From Animals

dscf0054.JPG

Hippos in Ishasha River (btn DRC and Uganda)

Virunga National Park is one of the most famous and rich parks in Africa when you look at its biodiversity. It’s inhabitants are 196 species of large mammals and some of them are only found the Central Albertine Rift (where Virunga is part of the region), 706 species of birds and 106 reptiles, etc.
As part of the region, Virunga NP which is located in the Eastern part of the DRC neighbours mainly five (5) national parks in Uganda and Rwanda.
Because of its continuous nature, it’s absolutely important that managers open their doors to their neighbours in order to work hand in hand to protect this biodiversity which is shared between countries.


The trans-boundary mechanism is a process where protected area authorities agree to work together to tackle regional-conservation related problems. E.g.: By law, rangers from one country are not allowed to cross the border with guns while the wildlife under their control is moving freely! Then poachers as smugglers were using different routes to cross from one side to another knowing that rangers could not break the law. They could be living in Uganda and poach in DRC and vice versa.

gardes-en-patrouille.jpg

Managers have to work together not to minimize or break the law but to develop strategies which are compatible with the law. Managers have agreed to carry on coordinated patrols where rangers from one side are patrolling on their side at the same time and place the other side is doing the same.

To enable this work on going, there is need of field equipment such as tents, raincoats, GPS units, batteries, etc. and ranger rations to enable them to cover long distances where they spend 3 to 5 days.

Coordinated patrols, as field surveillance can not perform all the work needed to reduce illegal activities thus there is need of information gathering and sharing between managers. Most of the wildlife products are trafficked under panya panya roads (smuggling ways) from one country to another.

mweya_jan05-018.jpg

Confiscated items under intelligence

The smugglers are not crossing boarders and they fear security and custom services as they know most of these products are not allowed for sale or there are several requirements to fulfill and they may not manage.

Managers have created intelligence networks from the surrounding villages up to the regional wardens’ forum and institutions to collect and use information gathered by local informers. In order to get this activity ongoing there is need of more supports to local informers and wardens by providing them communication equipments such as telephone and airtime.

Conservation is a worldwide interest as it contributes to the life of the world. Then it becomes difficult to handle conservation related activities without involving other stakeholders who are important in the whole process: custom, security services, police, army and magistrate are key stakeholders in the trans-boundary work.

It has been a success having these stakeholders in different forums where they learn about conservation, value and importance of the central Albertine rift region. There is a confident environment which has been established between conservation actors and law enforcement services. This cooperation needs to be strengthened if we want this most important part of world to survive: We have Gorillas, Elephants, Hippopotamus, etc.

The trans-boundary natural resource management has moved from the field level (protected area managers) to the Countries authorities (Heads of conservation institutions and Ministers) to the top level (presidential level – Uganda and DRC).

 

The worlds forgotten paradise – the Albertine Rift

Hello everyone, I am Deo Kujirakwinja, just call me Deo! I work for the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) on the Virunga Conservation Project.

deo-wcslow.jpg

I was born and studied in Goma and have been working for Virunga National Park since 2003. I conduct biological surveys, this is me during a recent survey.

First, let me tell you about this amazing Park. Virunga Park is contiguous to 11 protected areas and reserves in Rwanda and Uganda. This is one of the most special places on the planet, its called the Albertine Rift. In a recently conducted by WCS in which I participated, we found a high level of biodiversity in the gallery forests and woodlands, including chimpanzees, bongos, buffalo, elephants, leopards, and several types of monkeys, including a subspecies of colobus monkey found only here. We also recorded a high diversity of birds, reptiles, and amphibians, as well as some plants that may be new to science. In our two-month expedition we discovered 6 new species!!!! These include a bat, a rodent, two shrews and two frogs. I believe that this forest contains some interesting new species because it has been isolated from much of the Congo Forest block for at least 10,000 years. But due to poaching, we hardly saw any large mammals.

070807_frog_hmed_2phmedium.jpg

To effectively manage the area, there is need of collaboration with other managers to tackle regional threats. This has been one of my favourite jobs in the northern and eastern Virunga for transboundary resource management collaboration activities which has improved relationship between Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN)

My job involves ranger-based monitoring system: in order to get the status of the forest, I have been helping ICCN staff to launch the surveillance data gathering and management system for the whole Park. This involves capacity building actions including field based training for staff involved in Ranger-based monitoring and technical support.

As you all know from the gorilla blog, a consequence of civil war in DRC has been destruction of park infrastructure (ranger post), looting of field equipments and it is a hard work to re-establish the infrastructure and get rangers motivated and equipped.

I’ve been leading biological surveys in Virunga Park and other forests in Eastern DRC. Some people wonder why I do this in such a difficult area. Well, I am committed to contributing to better conservation of wildlife in DRC, particularly in Virunga National Park.