Okapi Conservation Project agronomists and educators organize regular meetings with farmers in remote villages to discuss sustainable agricultural practices. It is widely known that a slash and burn approach has long lasting negative impacts on soil fertility. Crops are more likely to fail due to wind damage, and unnatural crop associations were contributing to impoverished soil fertility in a short period of time. An OCP agronomist explains the benefit of crop rotation, adding nitrogen fixing plants and timing of plantings season as ways of improving crop production and increasing the length of time the soil remains fertile reducing the need to expand their farmland into the forest.
At a recent meeting, farmers voiced concerns about crop raiding by primates. They requested frequent and regular visits by ICCN rangers to help control crop raiding by wildlife and monitor the conversion of protected forest into fields which could quickly impact the limits of the delineated agriculture zones and compromise their ability to farm legally inside the Reserve. These forums are important avenues for productive dialogue between community members and OCP as we inform residents how they can live sustainably in this biologically diverse landscape and still provide for their families.
Through the Agrioforestry program, OCP was involved in the following activities during the third quarter of the year:
The Okapi Conservation Project (OCP) agroforestry team continues to expand their impact from the already implemented planting and education activities in communities in the north of the Reserve, now working with students from three schools in Mambasa planting much needed shade trees in their community. During these activities knowledge about the importance of trees, especially of those species which they were planting, was shared between the agronomists and the students. Along with needed trees for shade and wind buffering, the students planted native fruit trees.
In addition to the school programs, so far this year the agroforestry team has distributed 1,497 tree seedlings, 785 kg of rice seeds and 474 kg of peanut seeds and machetes and hoes to farmers in Bandisende, Epulu and Mambasa. From the experimental garden in Epulu 197 kg of beans and 540 kg of tomatoes were harvested and given to OWR personnel and to the citizens of Epulu to promote the nutritional benefits of planting these crops.
In the past few months the Okapi Conservation Project educators were, once again, busy around the Reserve. Thirty-five secondary and high schools held conservation sessions involving nearly 5,000 students. These were organized in an open forum consisting of interactive questions. During the sessions, students and educators discussed their knowledge of forests, and various threats to the native landscape including mining, slash and burn agriculture, poaching and bushmeat trade.
The role communities can play in mitigating forest loss was vigorously discussed and debated by students and community leaders. OCP educators outlined specific forest protection measures such as sustainable agriculture and tree planting in which the students can participate with their parents. The students were eager to resume sessions again, as there was so much to discuss. OCP educators will be travelling with more frequency in the coming months as security in the Reserve continues to improve.
Building an awareness of these important issues will help protect the wildlife in the Okapi Wildlife Reserve, which has one of the largest concentrations of biodiversity in the world. We are grateful to the many people around the world that support these efforts and we invite you to share this link with friends, family, and associates on social media.
Improving agriculture production reduces the need to move deeper into the forest in order to grow food, helping conserve forest habitat for okapi, forest elephant, chimpanzees, and a myriad of threatened and endangered species living in the Okapi Wildlife Reserve. By the conclusion of 2013, with the support of a widespread and caring, international community, the Okapi Conservation Project was able to reach even more farmers and communities, distributing seeds, and tools, and important knowledge of sustainable agroforestry practices.
New tree nurseries were established in Mambasa and Epulu, which will supply these communities with the important nitrogen-fixing trees needed for successful agroforestry techniques. Each year we also introduce a new crop to the region. In 2013 tomato plants were produced in Epulu for distribution to local farmers. As neighbors witness the results of practicing sustainable techniques, they are moved to participate in these programs, as well. With this new knowledge communities are responsible stewards of their forest resources.
This coming year we are planning to increase production of safo seedlings (an avocado-like fruit) and distribute them widely to communities around the Reserve. Native fruit sells well in the local markets and provide income which allows farmers to improve nutrition and health of their families.
Thank you for your support, and thank you for sharing this link with friends, family, and associates on social media. Together we are making strides in protecting habitat for wildlife, while giving communities tools for living sustainably.
OCP technicians and educators have been traveling throughout the Reserve meeting with farmers and leaders, encouraging them to keep up their efforts to improve their livelihoods through sustainable agroforestry techniques. The agroforestry team set up several vegetable nurseries and monitored mixed crop fields of farmers who received seeds and agrarian tools from OCP in 2013. The production of cash crops such as peanuts and cassava flour allows farmers to invest in the schools and clinics that serve their communities.
One major outcome of the many conservation seminars given around the Reserve over the last year by OCP educators on the effects of deforestation is that the District office for Environment in Bunia has produced more than 10,000 seedlings of fruit trees and eucalyptus tree which were distributed to the population for planting. OCP will focus on promoting replanting of trees as a grassroots effort to reverse the effects of deforestation and provide resources to communities that participate.
We are greatly encouraged by the actions and attitudes in the communities around the Reserve, and we are grateful for the many supporters around the world that are part of this important conservation effort. Thank you for your help, and please share this information with your friends on social media.
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