The people living right alongside the gorillas in the Virunga National Park are some of the poorest in Africa, with levels of poverty particularly high among the indigenous communities.
Jean de Dieu Kitmana is a Batwa, one of the indigenous groups helped by The Gorilla Organization: “Only a few years ago, I lived from hunting and gathering resources from the forests. This was tiring and dangerous and we were never settled. Now I am practising modern agriculture, I have even started breeding chickens. My children now go to school.”
The Batwa, Bambuti and other forest tribes are among the poorest people in Africa. They traditionally lived as hunter-gatherers in the forests of Uganda, Rwanda and the Congo, but they were evicted when the National Parks were established, leaving their families homeless and without land.
Their hand-to-mouth lifestyle brings them into conflict with the gorillas, but they want the opportunity to improve their lives, and to help protect the forests and the gorillas that live there.
These communities suffer from acute poverty and high levels of illiteracy. Most have little knowledge of their rights or of sustainable farming techniques, so they trespass into the protected forests in search of food, fuel or building materials.
The Gorilla Organization leads the way in working with these indigenous communities, rather than against them. Our sustainable agriculture training programmes reduce their dependency on the forests, enabling them to not only feed themselves and generate a surplus to either sell to generate income or to store for the future. Then they can afford to send their children to school and improve their own literacy.
Our success so far
- More than 1,000 people in eight communities now have reliable food
- 500 children have attended school
- Two more plots of land were purchased to increase harvest
- 53 bags of potatoes were harvested in one year
- The harvest helped the community to buy 3 goats and five chickens
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