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
Women with cabbage harvest in Epulu.
Women with cabbage harvest in Epulu.

In the past few months, it's been an exciting time for farmers across the Reserve. Harvest is in full effect and vegetables are being plucked from the fields in large quantities. The community comes together, sharing the fruits (or vegetables, rather) of their labors to ensure every family eats comfortably till the next harvest.

In addition to the farmers that we support through our sustainable agroforestry program, the women’s groups of each village are a key fixture within agriculture.  Women work to provide for their families and communities through the nurseries and community gardens in each village. 

Nurseries are integral to the larger farming efforts of the Reserve, delivering nitrogen-fixing trees to sustainable farms. Nitrogen-fixing trees keep the soil fertile, allowing the same land to be used season after season without having to carve out new land within the Ituri Forest. 

Community gardens provide a supplementary harvest of vegetables that the women’s groups can distribute to their families and those who need them most. These gardens give women in the community an additional way to provide for their village increasing their influence within the community by giving them control of the management of the resource.

Harvests around the Reserve have been largely successful, though a dry season did reduce the yield of crops in Epulu. Dry seasons make it challenging for enough water to be collected. But through their tenacity, the women of Epulu were able to keep most of the crops alive, producing a viable harvest.

Your support of the sustainable farms and women’s groups of the Reserve helps provide the most necessary resource to the people of the Reserve - food.  All while protecting the rich diversity of flora and fauna of the Ituri Forest.

Women's Group member displays a harvest sample.
Women's Group member displays a harvest sample.

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Okapi Grazing on Brush
Okapi Grazing on Brush

We recently received a major indicator of the progress our sustainable agroforestry initiative is making! What’s a better sign of success than… an okapi! A farmer near Epulu has had a male okapi visiting his farm on a regular basis for the last several months. Due to the farmer’s sustainable agroforestry practices, the male okapi visits frequently to browse on the plants that have been able to thrive near the farm. 

Not only is the sighting of an okapi a good indication of the success of the sustainable agroforestry initiative, it is a good sign for the health of the okapi population in the area. Seeing an okapi so close to inhabited land could be a sign the territory of okapi is expanding. On top of that, it's a really rewarding sight for everyone in Epulu who has put so much hard work into the Project!

Over the last several months our Agroforestry team has been putting in serious effort to continue their hard work despite the threat of COVID-19. OCP has made it a priority to keep employees and residents safe, wearing masks and social distancing ahead of any government mandate. Still, we continue to distribute seedlings, saplings, and supplies. Recently, the agroforestry team also hosted demonstration fields to introduce new farmers to the sustainable agroforestry program and encourage them to participate.

Just like the Reserve relies on community members to make the protection of okapi possible, we rely on contributors like you to help support them. Thank you for your help protecting the okapis’ rainforest home! 

Child with Field Harvest
Child with Field Harvest
Growing Crops
Growing Crops

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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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Organization Information

Wildlife Conservation Global

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

Funded Project!

Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.
   

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