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Fighting back against deforestation in the Congo

The Gorilla Organization's tree-planting drive in DR Congo is now well underway, with thousands of saplings having been distributed

The Gorilla Organization’s tree-planting drive in DR Congo is now well underway, with thousands of saplings having been distributed to communities living alongside the Kahuzi Biega National Park in DR Congo in recent weeks.

Towards the end of last year, the team at the Goma Resource Centre signed a partnership agreement with the African Development Bank to plant as many as 500,000 new trees with the aim of reversing several decades’ worth of deforestation in the region.

With the ink of the contract barely dry, The Gorilla Organization staff have been busy visiting a number of communities and persuading their village leaders to sign up to the project. Already, Programmes Manager Henry Cirhuza and his team have enjoyed some notable successes, with their initial focus on the Kalehe Territory, which is within walking distance of the National Park, seeing several villages sign up.

At a recent ceremony, Henry was joined by Communications Manager Tuver Wundi and an expert agronomist to supervise the planting of several hundred new saplings. Once fully-grown, these trees will provide the community with fuel and timber for construction, meaning they will no longer be reliant on the resources found within the National Park, home to Congo’s critically-endangered mountain gorillas and numerous other species.

Celebrating the first stage of the project, Henry explained: “For far too long, the people living alongside the protected forests have felt they have had little choice but to enter the gorilla habitat to support themselves and their families. As internal migration has caused the local population to soar, the problem has become worse and so we have seen the forests disappearing at an alarming rate.

“By planting fast-growing trees, we hope to provide dozens of communities with a sustainable of timber as well as fuel. This will not only improve the lives of thousands of people, it will also help create a natural green buffer between humans and their gorilla neighbours, meaning the gorillas are left in peace to thrive.”

Pictures from the tree planting ceremonies held across Kalehe Territory can be seen at the Gorilla Organization’s blog from the field, as well as on the official Flickr gallery.