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Guest Blogger: Director of the Congo Heartland

  • 03/31/09
  • Paul

Today we have a guest blogger: Jef Dupain, AWF director of the Congo Heartland. He writes about the latest from Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC):

Today, we are sitting here in Basankusu, with representatives of the local communities and with ICCN. A two days workshop on the management of the Lomako Yokokala Faunal Reserve... we call them CoCoSi-meetings. Notability, authorities, representatives of different ethnic groups, including the pygmies, specific representatives of women’s groups -- we are sitting together to discuss on how much bonobo visitors will have to pay, and how this money will be distributed amongst ICCN for the management of the Reserve and the local communities for support of local development initiatives.

Our consultant on financial management did a study and defends Reserve entrance fees of 80USD/day for tourists and 10USD/day for long term researchers. 40% of the income will go to the local communities who are organizing themselves, with support of AWF, in a mixed management committee. Transparent accountability is discussed. To set an example, the Conservateur of the Reserve gave an overview of the income thanks to some recent visits.

Unique. The interactive participative approach we are defending, and which is adopted by ICCN is truly unique. ICCN declared that this is the first of its kind in the DRC. In case of success, this approach will be applied elsewhere. What does success mean? Local communities take part in decision making on how the protected area will be managed, on how revenue will be shared, and as a result, local communities take up the defence of their protected area. In time, densities of bonobo, bongo, forest elephant, Congo peacock, leopard, Allen’s swamp monkey, black and white colobus, and many others will increase, more tourists and researchers will come and will be willing to pay for this environmental service, local communities will have increased access to education, medical treatment, electricity, clean water.... the list goes on.

Mange Bofaso put it best: “In Katanga they have diamonds. Here in Lomako, we have bonobos.”

About the Author

Paul began with AWF based in Nairobi for a year, before moving to Washington DC. Paul has worked at the Madrid Aquarium and at The Marine Mammal Center in the Marin Headlands outside San Francisco. He was born in New Zealand but grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. Paul received his B.S. in Wildlife Ecology and Management at the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment. He is a member of the Emerging Wildlife Conservation Leadership initiative and is working on a conservation campaign to combat the illegal trade of Asian pangolins. Paul enjoys photography, travel, hikes in the woods, music, and nyama choma.

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