The Okapi Conservation Project education team is focusing on the developing community conservation committees in the northern sector of the Okapi Wildlife Reserve. The towns of Wamba and Mungbere are difficult to reach because of the extremely poor road system, however these communities are critically important to the future of the Reserve because many of the inhabitants there rely on the forest for their livelihoods.
The education team, along with the Institute in Congo for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN) rangers, encouraged customary chiefs and local government administrators to become involved with formal community conservation committees. The committee members are tasked with communicating with their communities about the Okapi Wildlife Reserve conservation objectives. They are provided with resources such as information booklets and flyers, and technical support in areas such as agro-forestry and school rehabilitation, as well as bicycles and basic office supplies to help them travel and distribute information throughout their constituencies. This program is financed by a grant from UNESCO in support of the Okapi Wildlife Reserve World Heritage Site.
Five conservation committees were initiated in Wamba (57 participants) and Mungbere (28 participants) in 2010. The education team’s recent mission was to conduct an evaluation of the effectiveness of the conservation committees. Three of the committees had done a good job of internal organization, rehabilitating school infrastructure and agricultural tasks and will now also focus on curbing illegal activities associated with the Okapi Wildlife Reserve. Leadership problems with the other 2 committees were resolved and efforts will now be focused on getting them up to speed. The committees suggested they would like regular contacts with ICCN leadership to help their progress and to conduct special lobbying with military official based nearby in the city of Isiro to help solve poaching problems.
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