As security improves in the Epulu area, replanting of the demonstration garden is underway. This important educational tool illustrates very clearly to area farmers how a planned agroforestry system of planting can reap better harvests and over a longer period of time, than the traditional slash and burn approach to farming. Along with continuing a regular distribution of seeds, bean and peanuts for summer planting, OCP agronomists are distributing native fruit trees and nitrogen-fixing trees to farmers.
Needed shade trees are being provided to school communities where the students are involved in planting and maintaining. The agronomists take these opportunities with the students to share with them conservation information about the forest community in which they live.
Your support of this important conservation work is deeply appreciated, as even a small amount goes a long way for these communities. Helping people, in this simple way, translates directly towards helping wildlife. Share this information with your friends on Facebook and we thank you sincerely for your help.
Education and community support has never been more important for the protection of the forest resources in the DR Congo. During the past few months the Okapi Conservation Project staff has distributed educational material and school supplies to nearly all of the 106 schools around the Reserve, which serve over 27,000 students, with the remaining schools scheduled to receive their supplies over the next couple of weeks. Additionally, a campaign to distribute posters illustrating the various protected animals of the region will begin next month, and target government offices, schools and clinics around the Reserve.
Vegetable and peanut seeds, along with tools, continue to be distributed to members of the farmers’ cooperatives in Mombassa and Nduye by our Agro-forestry Team. This has been a very successful program of education to the communities in and around the Reserve and has made a great impact on the previously wide-spread practice of slash and burn for farming.
During this period of limited security, our staff continues to implement these community assistance projects with the support of concerned individuals and institutions from around the world.
Okapi Conservation Project staff have been very busy the past few months. In spite of the instability of the situation in the DRC, our dedicated educators have been travelling to various communities around the Okapi Wildlife Reserve organizing seminars to students and local leaders eager to understand the dangers of deforestation and the long term benefits of conservation actions.
This fall our agroforestry team collected rice seeds that will be distributed to new members for planting in the spring. Each farmer in the co-op gives back 50% of the seeds from their first harvest which then is shared with newly joining farmers. A new type of bean seed which provides high levels of much-needed protein was also distributed by our agro-forestry team.
Additionally, our team members distributed indigenous fruit tree seedlings, from our Project nursery in Mambassa, to households in communities along the road through the Reserve. These will provide much needed fruit and shade.
Support for protection of the Okapi Wildlife Reserve has never been stronger from the residents of these forest communities and this is a direct reflection of the commitment shown from individuals and institutions around the world during these past challenging months. We are in a new era of both challenges and possibilities for this important conservation corner of the world.
Indigenous fruit trees provided to local villagers
The Okapi Conservation Project is not immune to the global pressures of an increased demand for ivory, gold and bushmeat. Three months ago armed rebels attacked the ICCN headquarters in the village of Epulu, killing rangers, and looting and burning ICCN and OCP buildings, and terrorizing residents. Many people fled the town and have been unable to return to their gardens and homes while the area remains unsecured.
This attack on the ranger station and the OCP compound was a direct retaliation for recent anti-poaching efforts by the ICCN guards in the Okapi Wildlife Reserve. The Okapi Conservation Project continues to support the ICCN rangers in their front line struggle to protect the Okapi Wildlife Reserve. We are presently assisting those families in Epulu most affected by this tragic event, with food and medical needs, and we also continue to support other communities around the Reserve with agro-forestry education, among our other community programs. ICCN also continues to control illegal settlement and intrusion into forest zone by farmers inside the Reserve.
We will have more information on the unfolding situation from our Project Leaders next month. We are grateful for the tremendous support that has poured in from around the world over these past many weeks. For up-to-date information on the Okapi Conservation Project, please visit our website at http://www.okapiconservation.org/.
One of our tools for monitoring the health of the Ituri Forest and the Okapi Wildlife Reserve is aerial surveys. By conducting regular fly overs we can detect illegal activities such as poaching and mining, as well as agricultural encroachment into protected areas. Farmers expand their farms because slash and burn agricultural techniques are inefficient and their fields become unproductive in 2-3 years and they cut down more forest to try and feed their families. The aerial surveys identify areas where agricultural areas are encroaching into the Reserve so that the teams can focus on those issues.
The Okapi Conservation Project agroforestry team works with farmers providing techniques which improve and preserve the soil quality while producing higher yields to allow them to efficiently feed their families. The Project education team teaches farmers about their role as stewards of the forest, to understand the importance of the wildlife and forest and their natural heritage. By regularly monitoring with aerial surveys we can evaluate the progress of our programs to control slash and burn agriculture and reforestation.
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