Out of the four subspecies of gorillas on the planet, the Eastern Lowland Gorillas (ELG) is facing the biggest challenge due to the long lasting war in the eastern regions of the Democratic Republic of Congo. As known worldwide about the human pressures on them and their habitat in the Kahuzi-Biega National Park by way of bushmeat, traffic of babies, trophies, and the extraction of firewood, mushrooms, medicinal plants, minerals and so on. The protected area is remaining in the highland side as if it was an island of forest floating in the middle of the ocean of poverty.
In the lack of buffer zone since its creation, the KBNP has been suffering from illegal cutting for firewood. Rangers on patrol arrested local people inside the park. Men, young or aged, were arrested mostly for hunting, trapping wildlife, digging minerals, farming and so forth. Women were arrested for dry wood and mushroom collecting in the park in the majority of the cases. Many mountains are seen without bearing any large trees on around the eastern part of the park that is a highland area. Women and men had to pay fines every time they are arrested despite their poverty level.
POPOF and its team mobilized communities around the park to plant trees in their fields in order to avoid the illegal penetrations into the park which would finally cost them money every time. Between 1997 and 2009, over 1.5 millions of seedlings have been distributed to the communities. Women received 50% of these trees. Men received 40% and young people aged 13-17 received 10%. They all planted the seedlings in their farms, gardens and along the boundaries. Women are more serious in taking care of the planted trees until their harvesting periods.
Today it is observable that the number of arrested women in the park for tree cutting has reduced. Tree planting is playing double roles; (1) to secure park that is the shelter of the ELG and (2) to contribute to the fight against CO2. Women, especially who live closer to this endangered subspecies of gorillas, are more eager to plant more trees. They feel that they can harvest these trees and school their children, feed and buy clothes for their families thanks to the presence of the gorillas near their home.
People in other world do benefit indirectly from the oxygen produced by the trees that were planted by the people who once couldn’t think beyond just exploiting the natural resources for their needs.
“Together as one, we can face the climate change”