An Initiative by Local Women for the Families of the Itombwe Reserve's Rangers
Categories: Gorilla Journal, Journal no. 57, Success Stories, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Itombwe, Grauer's Gorilla
Femmes Leaders pour l'Environnement, Unies pour sa Restauration (FLEUR - Women Leaders for the Environment: United for the Purpose of its Restoration) is a non-political association that was established in 2009 by the wife of a reserve ranger. She decided to form an association to develop activities that directly touched upon the socio-economic life of the rangers of the Itombwe Nature Reserve (INR) in South Kivu Province. The poor living standards faced by the majority of households of reserve rangers triggered this initiative by local women, which has supported the families of the reserve's rangers. Activities developed by FLEUR have helped to empower the wives of the rangers across social, educational, economic and ecological aspects of their lives. This is summarized as follows:
Economic aspects: The private canteen supported by Berggorilla & Regenwald Direkthilfe in the name of the association has provided jobs for ±30 rangers' wives. These women have been without a means of earning an income for a long time, but are now contributing to the social needs of their households, to the great satisfaction of their husbands and benefit of the local communities where they live.
Health and education: The income generated by the canteen is efficiently managed by a committee that is entirely made up of women. It is distributed according to the priority needs of their households. During 2018, 30 % of the income generated by the FLEUR has been spent on the medical care of 36 children of the INR, while another 35 % was spent on school fees for 27 children.
Agriculture and animal husbandry: Subsistence farming, setting up kitchen gardens and breeding rabbits are some of the daily activities that each member of FLEUR is obliged to undertake.
Ecology and management of natural resources: The FLEUR non-profit organisation has reforested an area of 42.5 ha on the west side of Mwenga General Hospital, an important facility for the local community. The members have started to develop tree nurseries to produce ornamentals, fruit trees and other species.
Social aspects: The union and social cohesion displayed by the association have created mutual trust and a sense of responsibility in the rangers' wives in the face of the daily challenges of life.
Jean-Claude Kyungu and Félix Igunzi