Economic and social benefits for people local to conservation areas are as important to AWF’s work as protecting habitats. In fact, it can be said that they are inextricable. For, when landscape residents lack sustainable livelihood opportunities, they fall back on the forest for nearly all their primary needs. This is even truer in areas that are remote and isolated logistically.
Residents relying more on the forest means slash-and-burn agriculture and hunting–both detrimental practices that put plant and animal species further at risk—and entail a survival kind of lifestyle whereby living is day-to-day.
A couple of years ago, through micro-grants funded by the World Bank, AWF partnered with local organizations to train more than 3,000 people in the DR Congo Landscape in agroforestry, fishing, sanitation, sustainable agriculture, crop processing, market access, and more.
Then, a tugboat, supplied by USAID, and a barge was provided for landscape residents to transport their agricultural goods to city markets down river through AWF’s Congo Shipping Project. City markets offer much higher selling prices and greater demand over trying to sell produce on the local market.
City markets offer much higher selling prices and greater demand over trying to sell produce on the local market. They also give residents a chance to obtain rare finished goods in exchange, such as industrial-size pots, roof tiling, and transistor radios.
Now, in 2014, the tugboat MB MOISE, hauling three barges filled to capacity just arrived in Kinshasa mid-September after nearly four months of travel along the Congo River with a total estimate of 650 tons of crops including palm oil, coffee, and rubber.
“The increase in the numbers shows that the communities living in the landscapes understand more and more the well-founding of conservation for their sustainable development,” points out Raoul Tafua, AWF Conservation Enterprise Program Officer. The tugboat MB MOISE will undergo maintenance for a week or two before making its return up river.
Yao Bongoma is AWF's DRC Communications Officer.
AWF Blogs bring you to the critical landscapes we work in, where conservation benefits both wildlife and people alike. The blogs are written by our staff - men and women who have dedicated their lives to Africa's wildlife, people and wild lands.
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