Support for Conservation and Community Development around Maiko

Categories: Journal no. 66, Success Stories, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Maiko, Grauer's Gorilla

Rice mill of the women's association of Manguredjipa (© ICCN)

The population of villages and towns in the Maiko region faces many difficulties in accessing basic services such as drinking water, and so do the families of the eco-guards of Maiko National Park (MNP). In the absence of springs that are protected and managed, the inhabitants take water from rivers that they also use as toilets, for waste disposal and for washing their clothes and themselves. This situation explains the presence of many waterborne diseases such as cholera, typhoid fever, bilharzia and amebiasis.

The population lives mainly from agriculture and small-scale mining. Agricultural products are a source of food and income for many families. But the processing of these products is problematic due to a lack of adequate tools.

Other problems affecting the region are hunting and poaching. The population consumes a lot of bushmeat, which is also a source of income for them. With the voluntary surrender of 12-gauge shotguns, the rate of hunting has decreased sharply. Animals are reappearing, even along the road. However, those who surrendered their weapons saw their incomes fall and are asking for an alternative. The rivers in and around the MNP once contained a lot of fish, but due to water pollution resulting from mining activities, the fish have become scarce.

The population had expected to benefit from the creation of the park and the protection of its resources. Unfortunately, due to insecurity in the region, fewer partners have become involved in supporting the park than had been hoped. However, awareness-raising activities have resumed, albeit at a slower pace, since the process of withdrawal of armed groups, particularly in the southern sector, has been agreed.

The social distance between the MNP managers and the members of the riparian communities has resulted in a loss of public confidence in the ICCN and its representatives. In addition, people are uncertain of the managers' professionalism in regard to the management of natural resources. A project to assist mutual understanding has been started with a community conservation approach. This project consists of a series of actions designed to improve relations between the two parties and the socio-economic living conditions of the population.

Berggorilla & Regenwald Direkthilfe supports community development

As part of this project, a series of actions have been launched to strengthen women's socio-economic resilience and their involvement in the sensitisation of their communities to hygiene practices to protect the communities from waterborne diseases. The other major objectives of the project are to promote the protection of the park's natural resources and to bring the riparian communities and the MNP managers closer together. The detailed objectives of this project are as follows:

  1. Facilitate access to drinking water in villages and towns bordering the park to mitigate waterborne diseases.
  2. Improve agricultural production with the semi-industrial processing of products within the community.
  3. Reduce poaching with the development of fish farming to encourage people to eat less bushmeat.

The aim of the project is to support the 24,600 direct beneficiaries from ten villages, and other people living in this area, by helping them to generate income from local products such as fish, rice, palm oil and cassava flour.

Implementation of activities

The objective is to reconcile the imperative for conservation of biological diversity with the socio-economic development of local populations through a participatory approach. In accordance with this mission, the management of Maiko National Park and its partner Berggorilla & Regenwald Direkthilfe (B&RD) have implemented various actions to improve the living conditions of the communities bordering the park. Several activities were implemented during 2022 thanks to partnership funds: support for fishponds for a number of associations, the supply of spring water in Uyugu and Tingi-Tingi villages and a supply of processing mills for a women's association in the northern sector.

Fishponds. The beneficiaries are 800 members of the Catholic Church. Only the Catholic Church has been able to harvest fish from its fishpond. About 50,000 fish have been sold to meet the community's protein needs and to provide income for the Church. Three quarters of the population of Osso, Uyugu and Obasa villages (10,000 people) consume fish from their fishpond, even those with no money.

Processing of agricultural products. This is a mill for flour and corn, rice and oil. Until 31st January 2023, the project supported the community's efforts to process agricultural products through the association of women ecologists of Manguredjipa. Thanks to the mills, this association was able to produce 120 kg of rice from the rice mill and 200 kg of cassava flour generating 100 US-dollars (200,000 CDF). Thanks to the oil mill they produced 12 cans of palm oil, totalling 240 litres.

Spring water retention in Uyugu and Tingi-Tingi villages. The establishment of water retention units has proceeded as planned: one unit has been built in Tingi-Tingi and another in Osso. Work on a mini-feeding pipe also began, but the work had to be interrupted due to the rainy season. The work resumed in mid-January. The beneficiaries considered these projects to be positive developments.

Current results of the project 

The people of Tingi-Tingi and Uyugu/Osso, who used to drink water from the river, now have drinking water thanks to B&RD's support for the development of the two springs. In addition, two processing mills now allow the community to produce oil and rice without using much energy, thus increasing the revenues of the Manguredjipa Ecologist Women Association. These provisions, including an oil mill, a rice mill, fish farming and the development of sources of drinking water, represent an unforgettable charitable act for the community bordering the Maiko National Park.

However, the support does not yet benefit everybody in the community. A request has been made to extend these activities to other villages so that they can also take care of themselves. The Maiko National Park and its partner organisation B&RD have been asked to help other associations. Although mill revenues are partially used to finance the continuation of the project, additional support is still needed. The current implementation percentages are as follows: oil and rice mill 50 %, water retention projects 50 %, fishponds 60 %.

Some more details about the fish farming project

Several difficulties were encountered during the implementation of the project:

  • lack of means of transport,
  • fish loss during rainy periods,
  • fish being stolen from the ponds.

Future strategies and actions to address these issues include:

  • the sale and rotation of fry,
  • the multiplication of fishponds,
  • the recruitment of a fish farming specialist,
  • the reduction in the malnutrition rate,
  • the end of the use of toxic products in rivers,
  • good quality fish production.

Jean Claude Kyungu and Franck Muhindo-Malikewa