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Help Stop Slash and Burn Farming in the Congo

by Wildlife Conservation Global
Help Stop Slash and Burn Farming in the Congo
Help Stop Slash and Burn Farming in the Congo
Help Stop Slash and Burn Farming in the Congo
Help Stop Slash and Burn Farming in the Congo
Help Stop Slash and Burn Farming in the Congo
Help Stop Slash and Burn Farming in the Congo
Children help nursery staff with seedlings.
Children help nursery staff with seedlings.

The OCP Agroforestry program have made an incredible impact on the protection and sustainability of the environment since the program’s inception in 2001. We are happy to report that our initiatives continue to increase crop yields by up to 25% compared to traditional farming methods. And the major accomplishment of decreasing the time land needs to lay to fallow, (or be reusable for planting) to two years from the staggering 10 years it was before.

Many of the farmers around the Okapi Wildlife Reserve live in remote and difficult-to-reach areas. This provides one of the unique and more challenging tasks taken on by OCP - the spreading of knowledge about sustainable practices. The Agroforestry team tackles this through a number of resources. The first is by providing example gardens around the Reserve that attract farmers and people as they pass by on their daily errands and travels. The genuine interest of the people in how they can change their crop selection, crop rotation and planting schedules to improve crop production is making a broad impact across the region in reducing land degraded by slash-and-burn agricultural practices. The gentle encouragement of the agroforestry team recruits local people to not only join the program to increase their crop yields, but also shares the importance of protecting the ecosystem for the benefit of people and animals, including okapi.

Another method OCP uses is education programs. Since many of these farmers live remotely, radio broadcasts are an important way to reach them without having to make the challenging journey around the Reserve. These broadcasts not only talk about sustainable agroforestry, but the protection of resources and the damaging effects of illegal mining and poaching. In addition, our education programs are allowing children to participate in reforestation projects. Their participation gives children a sense of appreciation for nature, and a personal investment in the project.

Our agroforestry team has made the important identification of key sights for reforestation, like a field in the Bandisende area that was previously abandoned by poor farming practices. In order to regenerate these areas, the team collects fruit and nut tree seeds from the rainforest and then uses OCP nurseries to grow the trees. Once they are seedlings, they are replanted into the reforestation zones to regrow the Ituri Forest.

As always the nurseries have been hard at work distributing seedlings - 14,147 this quarter alone. Distributing tools and food seeds provides farmers the necessary resources to practice sustainable agroforestry.

We continue to be impressed and inspired by the hard work of the Agroforestry team. We appreciate your continued support of the project and our efforts to eliminate slash-and-burn agriculture from the Ituri Forest.

 

Learning sustainable agroforestry at the nursery.
Learning sustainable agroforestry at the nursery.

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Children with seedlings for World Tree Day
Children with seedlings for World Tree Day

Nurseries were busy distributing seedlings in the past few months with a total of 26,592 going out to 717 local farmers. Over 11,200 kg of bean seeds were distributed to 183 farmers. Thirty-nine new gardens were also set-up in local communities. Our ever-increasing agroforestry production helps reduce unstainable agriculture in the area. Distribution can be made difficult by poor road conditions, exacerbated by bad weather that often floods them and disables vehicles. Still, nursery workers and agronomes are eager to distribute and receive the seedlings.

World Tree Day was celebrated on November 6 in the Reserve, taking advantage of the rainy season, where children were able to plant reforesting trees around their schools. This not only educated children on the importance of the rainforest habitat but provides shade around the classrooms and causeways for wildlife. Efforts to include children in sustainable agroforestry practices seems to be having a positive effect. Youth have been taking on a larger role at the nurseries and aiding in the distribution of seedlings.

Providing sustainable agroforestry is one of the largest contributions we can make to protecting the Ituri Forest. Establishing nurseries and community gardens leaves a lasting, perpetuating benefit to local communities by providing a lasting food source and protecting the environment at the same time. It is exciting to see the youth willing to help at nurseries and participating in International Tree Day. By establishing a consideration for the environment early on, we hope to see these youth become leaders in their communities and continue to expand sustainability across the Reserve.

Distribution of tree seedlings at Mambasa Nursery
Distribution of tree seedlings at Mambasa Nursery

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Seedlings distributed to farmers from nursery
Seedlings distributed to farmers from nursery

By providing families around the Okapi Wildlife Reserve with the resources to support sustainable agricultural we are protecting the okapi’s natural rainforest habitat while assisting the communities that call the area home. By only using designated agricultural zones combined with strategies that lengthen the life of the soil, communities can avoid the slash-and-burn agricultural methods that destroy large swaths of the rainforest while gaining increased harvest yields through better farming practices.

This quarter we have continued to distribute seeds from five sites around the Reserve benefitting 774 farmers across the region. A grand total of 23,331 seedlings and 1,525 trees were planted during the third quarter this year. Sixteen new vegetable gardens were set up, adding an additional 71 households across five sites to our program. The main harvests included rice, beans, and peanuts providing a sustainable dietary resource for the communities.

Our efforts in creating sustainable agricultural have been so popular with the local community that they have attracted some unwanted attention from local wildlife and intruders in Mambasa. To thwart these raids, the nursery constructed new fencing and gate that now secure the property.

International Tree Day will continue to be celebrated this year, with saplings being distributed to children to plant around their school. These trees provide much-needed shade from the tropical heat as well as wildlife corridors for local animals to enjoy.

Programs like these establish long-term solutions to agroforestry for the region, empowering people and allowing them to become self-sustaining. It also gives them the opportunity to participate in the conservation of their environment while still providing for their families. The protection of the okapi and aid provided to local villages is only possible through the funding of our generous donors like you. We thank you for your continued support and look forward to seeing you in the new year!

New gate for nursery in Mambasa to prevent goats
New gate for nursery in Mambasa to prevent goats
Rice collection in Bapukeli
Rice collection in Bapukeli

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Distribution of farming tools in Biakato
Distribution of farming tools in Biakato

Slash-and-burn farming is the main threat to okapi habitat throughout its range. Okapi need large, undisturbed tracts of lush forest in order to survive and reproduce. To decrease the prevalence of slash-and-burn agriculture within the Okapi Wildlife Reserve (OWR), Okapi Conservation Project provides the tools, supplies and education needed to create a more sustainable farming practices that helps to both extend the life of the soil by up to 10 years and establish food security needed in an area where food access is difficult. By teaching these practices to local communities, we increase their capacity to grow their own food while preventing incursions into critical okapi habitat. With these actions combined, we are protecting okapi habitat. This program is currently hosted in five regions in and around the OWR including Mambasa, Niania, Wamba, Biakato and Epulu.

During this quarter over 23500 seedlings were distributed consisting of over 9700 nitrogen-fixing trees that put nutrients back into the soil, 70 agroforestry trees, nearly 1400 fruit-bearing trees and over 12,400 multi-purpose trees. These seedlings were propagated by seed collected in the region and grown in our OCP nurseries in each of the 5 areas. These sites are monitored by our knowledgable agronomes. In addition to providing seedlings to 870 farmers, OCP staff also distributed much-needed supplementary tools to plant the trees in each area. They donated 38 machetes, 21 hoes and more in order to mend the soil and plant the trees. 

By providing these seedlings and tools to the local people, there have been no incursions by farming into critical okapi habitat. This is a testament to the success of the program which provides a direct need for the communities and, in turn, reduces their impact on the surrounding forest.

This longstanding and successful program is only possible with the support of wonderful donors like you! We thank you for your continued support - especially working in such a difficult corner of the world for an animal that is rarely seen. 

Nursery in Mambasa
Nursery in Mambasa
Garden in Mambasa
Garden in Mambasa

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Students receiving seedlings to plant at school
Students receiving seedlings to plant at school

Community involvement in an essential part of conservation. Agroforesty programs aid in giving the local communities the opportunity to increase their crop yields while protecting the rainforest. Farmers in our agrofrorestry program are located in and around the Okapi Wildlife Reserve, but there are five villages where OCP grows trees and stores seed crops: Epulu, Mambasa, Biakato, Niania, and Wamba. The primary focus for each area is the growing and distribution of seedlings from nurseries. The Wamba nursery was completed in 2018 and was the newest nursery to be added.

In 2018, there were almost 70,000 tree seedlings distributed to over 2,000 people. These seedlings included nitrogen-fixing, fruit, and other various types of trees. Additionally, the agroforesty program assisted over 1,200 farmers and distributed over 2,300 kg of rice, 1,100 kg of peanuts and 1,200 kg of beans for planting. Various tools like machetes and hoes were also provided to new farmers in the program. Agronomes also allocated various vegetable seeds including cabbage, carrot, and cucumber seeds to the 85 community vegetable gardens.

A ‘refresher course’ was provided in Epulu for five agronomists and two technician to revisit and share the very successful agroforestry techniques and what has worked in each of the five villages. The refresher course provided training on the importance of community conservation, nursery maintenance, tree planting, select tree species for the agroforestry program, the Okapi Wildlife Reserve and how to use a GPS.

International Tree Day was also celebrated in November in Mambasa, Biakato, Niania, and Wamba. In each area there was one selected school that had the students and teachers plant trees at their respective schools. A total of 545 trees were planted with 450 children participating in the activity.

The agroforestry program enables local people in various communities to participate in sustainable practices in conservation. These techniques aid in keeping critical okapi habitat from being destroyed. This is all possible by the funding from donors like you. We highly appreciate and thank you for your generous and continued support!

Large cabbages in demonstration garden
Large cabbages in demonstration garden
Planting trees to reforest school yard in Niania
Planting trees to reforest school yard in Niania

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Organization Information

Wildlife Conservation Global

Location: Jacksonville, FL - USA
Website:
Project Leader:
John Lukas
Jacksonville, Florida United States

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