By Steve Shurter - International Programs Director
Demonstration Agroforesty Garden, Epulu, DR Congo
The solutions to slash and burn agriculture are not simple. Subsistence farmers in the Ituri Forest of the DR Congo have used slash and burn agriculture for centuries practicing shifting agriculture. As the population in the region has grown in the last years, there are many more people around the Okapi Wildlife Reserve all trying to eke out a living from the forest. The same forest which is critically important for the okapi, forest elephants, chimpanzees and many unique wildlife species.
One of the Okapi Conservation Project's methods of stopping slash and burn agriculture has been to introduce new crops which are not detrimental to the forest soils and can provide farmers with ample food for their families. One of these crops, manioc or cassava is a staple food and we have helped introduce disease resistant strains of manioc which produce better yields and high quality leaves and roots, both of which are consumed by farmers and their families.
The Okapi Project has also introduced other vegetables like eggplant, peppers and squash as well as growing techniques to help farmers produce more varied and nutritious foods. Once the farmers see that their current plots will continue to be productive, they don't need ever larger plots which reduces the need for them to cut more forest down. These techniques are known as agroforestry and are an important tool to help farmers live in harmony with the forest. If the forest is intact the wildlife and people who depend on the forest can thrive.
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