We cerebrated POPOF’s 20th Anniversary on September 4 and the ceremony was held at CRSN-Lwiro, South-Kivu. The local chief of Miti area communities Mr Kanongo Rwabika opened the ceremony to all.
Speech by John Kahekwa
The founder John Kahekwa followed and emphasized by explaining from A to Z about POPOF. The PolePole Foundation fulfilled its second decade working hard by doing conservation activities in and around the Kahuzi-Biega National Park.
POPOF got its origin from the little amount of USD 10 an American tourist gave to John in 1986 after the gorilla tracking of the group of the former famous gorilla called Maheshe. John spent this amount to pay plain t-shirts made in China and draw gorilla face on and wrote “I tracked gorillas in Zaire” and sold the same t-shirts to tourists. John played a part in the film “Gorillas in the Mist”(1988) and earned some money, too. He daily observed the Eastern lowland gorillas and identified 155 gorillas using five different formulas. He always discussed data about gorillas with Professor Juichi Yamagiwa who confirmed this.
John became concerned about the human pressure on gorillas and its habitat coming from communities around the KBNP. John preferred to spend the amount of USD 6,000 he earned from t-shirts and film business and founded the NGO called Pole Pole Foundation “POPOF” in 1992.
Following year, Juichi Yamagiwa became a member of honor and a representative of POPOF in Japan. He played a great role of fund raising for POPOF until now. Dr Augustin Basabose became a member of POPOF since 1995 until present.
POPOF is an NGO composed by researchers, rangers and natives from communities and played a good and relevant role by involving surrounding communities to the protection and conservation of the natural resources of KBNP. To go through this was to mobilize local communities to be aware of the gorillas and their habitat and to create jobs to some of the communities.
In John’s speech, he demonstrated that out of 47 former poachers 21 women and 26 men were converted into wood carvers, school teachers, clothe tailors, etc. A number of 4,000,063 were planted among four different communities such as Mudaka, Miti, Bugorhe and Irhambi Katana. These communities border with the KNPB highland area.
A complex school Anga/POPOF/Miti of the agroforestry section was built since 1999. This school is to train pupils as new generations to know and to love nature with one goal to be able to preserve the natural habitat and communities in harmony in the future. State diplomas from this school come out every year with 100 per cent and sometime 75 per cent of success. A canteen of foods selling was built in the area of Miti for the school. A small business, animal breeding, farming were given to widows of the late rangers who were succumbed in the battle field for protecting the park, etc.
Speech by Dr. Bajop Baluku, CRSN-Lwiro
The room was offered to POPOF by the CRSN-Lwiro management. Dr Bajop Baluku the Managing Director of this center in his speech explained how much POPOF is the light for the communities around the KBNP. He also mentioned how much POPOF contributed in bringing the international Spanish NGO, Coopera to CRSN in 2006. Bajop offered a certificate of merit to POPOF.
Speeches by Byakesho Marie-Claire and Valentin Nyaluhazi, Anga Schools
After the speech of John Kahekwa who spoke about the general policy and achievements of POPOF, it was followed by the presentations of Byakesho Marie Claire of the Anga kindergarten and primary schools accompanied by Valentin Nyaluhazi representing the secondary school of Anga POPOF, Miti.
Both spoke how the Complex school Anga of today started as a kindergarten school and how POPOF expanded classroom one by one each year and how the number of pupils increased.
Also it took a long time to convince parents to send their children to attend classes at Anga. They also mentioned the difficulties faced by the schools. Parents have been now very happy and are devoted to send their children to study at Anga schools. The major problem for the parents is the poverty level. Some children cannot attend schools due to the lack of school fees.
Speech by Adolphe Chibembe, Kahuzi-Biega National Park
The two presentations from the POPOF educators were followed by the speech of Adolphe Chibembe Safari representing Radar Nishuli, the Director of the Kahuzi-Biega National Park who was traveling in South Korea. Chibembe gave a brief testimony of how the KBNP started without a community conservation policy in the 1970s. The German technical support by GTZ(German Technical Cooperation) began in mid 1980s. The involvement of local communities was of non-existence at that time because the locals who were once arrested in the park considered the park as an area of conflicts rather than their wealth. Chibembe added that POPOF began in 1992 with the goal of involving local communities to the preservation of the natural resources of KBNP.
He said he was surprised and admired always to see POPOF working hard with new achievements every year for the benefits of the park and surrounding people around. He thanked POPOF and congratulated POPOF’s founder on behalf of the KBNP authority.
Presentation by Dr. Augustin Basabose
Then Dr Augustin Basabose a member of honor and in charge of the scientific research of POPOF presented in Powerpoint about the scientific research. He emphasized that there was no little or big researches but rather it depends on the results that were expected. The auditory where there were numerous conservationists and researchers applauded a lot and noticed that local people contribute a lot in the nature conservation policy for the perpetuity of the KBNP.
Presentation by Prof. Juichi Yamagiwa
It came the time for Professor Yamagiwa who presented about the research and the gorillas. Many pictures were shown to the auditory. He showed the films of our foundation since its creation and many more of the former popular gorillas as such as Mushamuka, Maheshe and Ninja.
Anga pupils performance
It came different games recital poems by the pupils girls and boys. They recited the poems related to nature conservation by all.
Attendees listened very carefully and appreciated each speech and presentation. Journalist from local medias covered everything at the ceremony!