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Development project 8 of 16
Communities around Virunga National Park, DR Congo
Mountain gorillas
Local Partner:   Tujitegemee / PAIDEK

The communities living alongside the Virunga National Park, DR Congo, suffer from severe poverty and rely on the forest for resources, including water, firewood and bamboo. While the communities have little choice, trespassing to collect these resources causes habitat disturbance and destruction, contributing towards the extinction of the world’s remaining 720 critically endangered mountain gorillas. To address this issue, the Gorilla Organization began working with local partner PAIDEK (Programme d'Appui aux initiatives de Developpement Economique du Kivu) in 1999 to establish a microcredit project called “Tujitegemee”, from the Swahili for self-reliance.

The overall objective of the project is to reduce human pressure on the gorilla habitat by encouraging the development of small to medium-sized enterprises as income-generating initiatives. The specific objectives are:


  • To accord loans to clients for the establishment and development of businesses
  • To train credit agents in the granting of loans, monitoring of clients and collection of loan repayments
  • To invest in the credit fund until it becomes self-financing



Loans of $50 - $300 are typically accorded for agriculture, small businesses, marketing agricultural produce, and arts and crafts. A low rate of interest is charged, and once the credit fund is large enough, the returns on loans granted will become sufficient to finance the operating costs of the credit agents.

By the end of 2004, the project had become more-or-less self-financing. Unfortunately, there have been several periods of intense fighting in Congo, resulting in many clients’ businesses being looted and destroyed, and making it almost impossible for them to pay back their loans. An evaluation of the project carried out in 2007 provided a business plan and recommendations to take it into the future, and the credit agents underwent training the following year. This helped them to operate more efficiently, and loan reimbursements improved almost immediately. The Gorilla Organization was able to invest further into the credit fund, as well as providing vital equipment including a computer.

A total of 153 groups are currently benefiting from loans, and since the project started an overall total of 1,122 individuals in 310 groups have benefited. The circulating credit amounts to over $600,000 since project implementation, and during 2009 the Gorilla Organization will invest a further $10,000 into the credit fund, which continues to have a significant impact on the lives of the beneficiaries.


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