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Development project 16 of 16
Title
Indigenous Communities in DR Congo
Location
Communities around the Virunga National Park, DR Congo
Gorillas
Mountain gorillas
Local Partner:   AIMPO
Description

The indigenous Bambuti of DR Congo are amongst the poorest communities living alongside the Virunga National Park, home to the critically endangered mountain gorilla. The Bambuti traditionally lived as hunter-gatherers in the forests, which provided them with food and shelter, but when the national park was created the communities were evicted, leaving families homeless and without land. They have since faced acute poverty, and low levels of education, coupled with little knowledge of their rights, has resulted in a severe lack of confidence. Through a grassroots project that began in 2003, the Gorilla Organization and the African Indigenous and Minority Peoples Organisation (AIMPO) have been addressing the needs of these communities by securing agricultural land for them, providing training in basic farming techniques and health and social issues, and improving education standards through adult literacy training and schooling.

The overall objective of the project is to reduce the poverty faced by the Bambuti, in turn lowering human pressure on the national park. The specific objectives are:

  • To train the Bambuti in sustainable agriculture, enabling them to grow sufficient food for their subsistence needs, and surplus for sale to generate income and to store for future crops
  • To support education by enabling children to go to school and improving adult literacy
  • To improve the health and welfare of the communities

 

Progress

When the project began, 11.3 hectares of land were purchased for the Bambuti community at Nkwenda village, where activities are focussed, and 30 households were relocated there. Since this time, a further six houses have been constructed, along with three latrines, two shower blocks and a hall for literacy training. Project activities have concentrated on developing agriculture, with basic training in modern farming techniques and the provision of tools and seeds enabling the communities to grow crops that cover their subsistence needs and generate a small profit. A crop store was restored in 2007 and allows surplus crops to be stockpiled, reducing spoilage and facilitating the sale of produce out of season, when it can generate greater profits.

A social worker has been educating the communities on health and hygiene issues, with discussion topics including diseases, food preparation techniques, and the importance of a balanced diet. This aspect of the project is helping the Bambuti to live healthier lives, while the construction of a health centre has led to further improvements in their wellbeing. Adult literacy classes are helping to improve education standards and build confidence, while children’s primary education is also supported through the provision of teaching materials and uniforms.

Over the coming months, the communities will continue to train in modern farming techniques, implementing these to produce high quality crops, which will generate further income. The social worker will maintain contact with the communities with regard to health-related issues, and literacy training sessions will also continue.

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