This article is a guest post by Yao Bongoma, DRC Communications Officer at othe AFrican Wildlife Foundation. For more information, please contact Yao at email@example.com
Diversifying Incomes to Reduce Dependence on the Forest
Economic and social benefits for people local to conservation areas are equally important to the African Wildlife Foundation's (AWF's) work as protecting habitats. In fact, it can be said that they are inextricable. For when landscape residents lack sustainable livelihood opportunities, they fall back on the forest for nearly all their primary needs. This is even truer especially in areas that are remote and isolated logistically. Residents relying more on the forest means slash-and-burn agriculture and hunting - both detrimental practices that put plant and animal species further at risk - and entails a survival kind of lifestyle whereby living is day-to-day.
So, a couple years ago, through micro-grants funded by the World Bank, AWF partnered with local organizations to train more than 3,000 people in the DR Congo Landscape in agroforestry, fishing, sanitation, sustainable agriculture, crop processing, market access, and more. Then, USAID supplied a tugboat for landscape residents to transport their agricultural goods to city markets down river through AWF’s Congo Shipping Project. City markets offer much higher selling prices and greater demand over trying to sell produce on the local market. They also give residents a chance to obtain "rare" finished goods in exchange, such as industrial-size pots, roof tiling, and transistor radios.
In 2012, the barge transported approximately 400 tons of cassava, rice, maize, and other crops—diversifying economic opportunities for nearly 70 communities in the process. The trip was a success!
Now, in 2014, the tugboat MB MOISE, hauling three barges filled to capacity just arrived in Kinshasa mid-September after nearly four months of travel along the Congo River with an estimated of 650 tons of crops including palm oil, coffee and rubber this time. “The increase in the numbers is an indicator of the communities living in the landscapes understanding more and more the well-founding of conservation for their sustainable development,” points out Raoul Tafua, AWF Conservation Enterprise Program Officer. The tugboat MB MOISE will undergo maintenance for a week or two before making its return up river.
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