Help Stop Slash and Burn Farming in the Congo

by Wildlife Conservation Global
Vetted
Children celebrating Tree Day on Dec 5
Children celebrating Tree Day on Dec 5

In the last 3 months of 2016, over 10,600 seedlings were distributed throughout the Okapi Wildlife Reserve (OWR) to continue bolstering reforestation efforts and assist farmers participating in our agroforestry program. We continue to monitor the growth of the nitrogen-fixing trees to determine their growth rates and their impacts on the rice, beans and peanuts.

The start of the great dry season comes in early December, and as such, we celebrated International Tree Day on December 5 by providing trees to schoolchildren around the OWR. We taught them the benefits of having trees, conserving endangered species and assisted with planting the tree saplings in a plot of land near their schools.

In Epulu, we prepped an experimental field for planting. The fallen logs and small trees that were removed were either repurposed as firewood or used as construction materials. 

The utilization of these techniques as part of our agroforestry program are only made possible by supprters like you. Thank you for your interest in our project and continued support!

Schoolchildren with trees on Tree Day
Schoolchildren with trees on Tree Day
Cabbage grown by farmer
Cabbage grown by farmer
Firewood from experimental field in Epulu
Firewood from experimental field in Epulu
Transporting seedlings for reforestation
Transporting seedlings for reforestation

The agroforestry program continues to be successful with more and more farmers wanting to be a part of the program. The increased crop yields lessens the need to expand their farming plots farther into the forest and away from their homes making the program appealing and beneficial to all who participate.

By teaching the basic techniques of crop rotation, how to incorporate nitrogen-fixing trees and the utilization of natural fertilizers shows OCP’s investment in the community and helps build trusting relationships with everyone involved. And by providing food security to impoverished the communities, it reduces their encroachment into critical okapi habitat for access to additional space to grow crops to support their families.

As funding becomes available, we are hoping to expand into Mungbere and Niania, providing a greater area of coverage around the Reserve.

So far in 2016, OCP has built 11 new nurseries providing seedlings for reforestation projects around the Reserve. Since the last update, over 10,000 seedlings have been distributed to help rebuild vital okapi habitat around schools within the Reserve. Involving children in this process helps instill the value on wildlife conservation at a young age.

Without our champions and supporters like you, we would not be able to bring this exciting program to communities around the Reserve and help instill the value of wildlife conservation into the youth of communities sharing a home with the okapi.

Measuring heights of trees monitors reforestation
Measuring heights of trees monitors reforestation
Seedlings for reforestation in school gardens
Seedlings for reforestation in school gardens

Links:

Articarpus sp. in Mambasa Nursery
Articarpus sp. in Mambasa Nursery

The success of the agroforestry program has contributed to a noticeable decline in slash and burn agriculture within the Reserve. After a recent trip to Epulu in July, we saw no evidence of farmers expanding beyond the 32 designated agricultural areas and encroaching into the forest. The farmers have noticed an increase in food production of their plots by utilizing the techniques that preserve and lengthen the life of the soils.

Because of the program’s success OCP is looking to expand to Mungbere and Wamba where at least 100 farmers are anxiously waiting to join the program. Expansion to these areas will give us greater coverage that is evenly distributed throughout the Reserve. Building excitement for the program and trust with OCP opens the door to create dialogue about the conservation of the forest and the animals.

The expansion of this program is only possible when areas are secure. The increased guards and patrols in the northern sector of the Reserve have opened up the opportunity to provide the agroforestry programs to that previously unpatrolled area.

The support of people like you from around the world makes the challenging work of protecting wildlife possible! Join us to help save the animals, plants and people that live in this unique forest.

Sowing Rice in Ekulungu
Sowing Rice in Ekulungu
Reforestation Site at Binase Primary School
Reforestation Site at Binase Primary School

Links:

Planting seeds
Planting seeds

OCP has been assisting communities throughout the Okapi Wildlife Reserve to improve their food security. The agroforestry program has gained popularity among the farmers in more remote areas of the reserve, allowing OCP educators to make inroads to areas not previously receptive to conservation efforts.

Since the success of the program depends on secure areas, the increase of patrols has allowed more farmers to commit their participation. However, the poor road conditions still hinder outreach and education, especially during the rainy season. Because of the programs high demand, OCP is trying to surmount the difficult conditions in order to bring sustainable farming practices to more farmers living in and around  the reserve, thus reducing the rate of conversion of forest to agriculture and helping preserve the critical habitat needed for the endangered okapi.

OCP also operates 11 demonstration gardens to pique the interest of passers-by and teach them about crop selection, crop rotation and row planting to improve their crop yield. Caring about the needs of people opens doors for conversations about why we care about them and their communities – we need their help to conserve critical okapi habitat. Because we work to improve the livelihoods of the communities around the reserve, they are directly involved in helping preserve okapi habitat – as a result 95% of the forest cover remains intact in the Ituri basin.

So far in 2016:

  • OCP has distributed over 10,000 tree seedlings
  • Distributed 2 tons of peanut, bean and rice seeds to 188 farmers
  • Established 11 new seed beds of various vegetables in Epulu and Mambasa nurseries,
  • Provided agricultural tools, seedlings and training in farming to primary and secondary school students in Epulu.

The support of conservationists from around the world makes the challenging work of protecting okapi and this unique forest teaming with biodiversity possible!

Planting in the Reserve
Planting in the Reserve
Road Conditions within the Reserve
Road Conditions within the Reserve

Links:

Agroforestry Garden
Agroforestry Garden

The Okapi Conservation Project educators and agronomists continue bringing the message of sustainable agricultural practices and forest resource conservation to communities living in and around the Okapi Wildlife Reserve. Our 18 demonstration gardens situated around the Reserve draw people as they pass by on foot, bicycles and motorbikes. 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 past year we have been able to admit many new farmers to our program. The OCP agroforestry team provided tools, and seeds to 553 farmers this year and distributed 38,500 tree seedlings. As we enter a new year we look forward to being able to serve many more interested farmers around the Reserve that are  currently on our waiting list.  There is a direct relationship between improving food production and a reduction in illegal activities. As people grow more food they can sell the surplus for cash to buy much needed basic supplies and pay for health care. There is a reduced need to get involved in dangerous illegal poaching and mining operations to make money to take care of your family.

By tying our support to better stewardship of forest resources, wildlife benefits and people benefit. Caring about the needs of people opens the door for conversations about why we care about them – we just want their help in conserving wildlife habitat. It is working; 95% of the forest cover remains intact in the Ituri Basin which encompasses 45,000 sq.km!

The Okapi Wildlife Reserve, a World Heritage Site, is one of the most bio diverse sites in all of Africa, and is home to the largest populations of Forest elephant, okapi and chimpanzees in DR Congo. We are grateful for the many supporters from around the world that support this important work!

Planting in Agroforestry Garden
Planting in Agroforestry Garden
Harvesting from Garden
Harvesting from Garden

Links:

 

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Organization Information

Wildlife Conservation Global

Location: Jacksonville, FL - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.okapiconservation.org
Project Leader:
John Lukas
Jacksonville, Florida United States

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