A growing engagement
Say ‘Congo’ and most people will think of thick, impenetrable forests. Few people realise that one third of Congo’s surface area is covered by savannah. The WCS Batéké project works in the area around the Lefini reserve in central Congo. Trees cover only about 20% of the landscape, meaning that the wooded areas are increasingly under pressure from a growing human population. The reserve was created in the 1950s as a big game hunting area. The wildlife included lions and hyenas and large numbers of elephants. But years of neglect resulted in the loss of most of the large mammal fauna, and only a small population of elephants now remains.
The objective is to create a sustainable agricultural model that provides crops and fuel-wood simultaneously. As these plantations grow, they sequester carbon dioxide, and reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation.
The WCS project wants to rehabilitate the reserve, and aims to restore its wildlife heritage. But this cannot be done without addressing the development needs of the communities that live in the reserve periphery. We are encouraging ecotourism, which is a revenue-generating activity for local people, and we are developing an agricultural assistance programme to provide economic alternatives for the communities.
This film explains the problem of deforestation and the dependence of the local communities on fuel wood gathered in the forest. It shows how the creation of small scale agro-forestry plantations can provide short, medium and long term benefits for these communities and help to reduce their dependency on the reserve.
WCS, in partnership with the Aspinall Foundation, is expanding this agroforestry programme in villages around the Lefini reserve. The activities are supported by USAID, and the Norwegian Ministry of Climate and Environment. The objective is to create a sustainable agricultural model that provides crops and fuel-wood simultaneously. As these plantations grow they sequester carbon dioxide, and reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation. As the programme expands, we will be able to quantify the climate benefits of these activities, and we hope that one day, carbon credits might even become a source of income for the participating communities.