At a once-premier reserve, sowing seeds of transformation
Deep in the world’s second largest tropical forest sits a maze of buildings that were once home to a premier, colonial-era site for biodiversity research. Though many have continued efforts there, some former labs and research areas are quiet, and aged books sit serenely on library shelves.
Political instability and conflict over the years have made natural resource management and sustainable development in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) difficult to implement, yet with notable progress since 2001’s sectoral reforms.
Enveloping the former research station in Yangambi, the forest is facing increasing pressure from surrounding communities because of the support it provides, through the land used for shifting cultivation to the forest products available for trade.
A new endeavor there is addressing that vital dual role of the forest as a creator of livelihoods and nurturer of biodiversity, which in this case includes a staggering 32,000 tree species.
Fashioning unique linkages between the local communities farming and gathering forest products in and alongside the reserve, scientists with expertise in land management and up-and-coming researchers at the University of Kisangani (UNIKIS), are part of a project to build on the knowledge and proficiencies of these diverse groups to cultivate skills that benefit people and forests.
“Making connections between existing institutions such as the National Institute of Studies and Research in Agronomy , the DRC’s Institute of Agronomy, young scientists from all over the country trained at UNIKIS and the people who live in Yangambi, we are supporting sustainable development and biodiversity management , all the while assessing and proposing solutions to the trade-offs that such connections create,” said Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) Senior Scientist Paolo Cerutti, who is leading these efforts.