- “Conflict-sensitive conservation approaches have helped to reduce illegal activities and illegal farmers have moved out of an important ecological corridor”.
- “Community Conservation Committes (so-called CCCs) were established to facilitate the dialogue between the park authorities and the communities”.
The Kahuzi-Biega National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo was created in 1970, but only covered the mountains of the Albertine Rift. Five years later, the park was extended to the west to include the lowland rainforest. The park harbours important populations of the eastern lowland gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri), the eastern chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes troglodytes) and other primates, such as a sub-species of the owl-faced monkey endemic to the park region. A relatively small corridor, the Nindja corridor, connects the lowland and the highland areas. This corridor was intact until the early 1990s allowing elephants, chimpanzees and gorillas to pass, but with the political insecurity in Democratic Republic of Congo, farmers invaded the corridor. The park, which was declared a World Heritage site in 1980, was listed as a World Heritage site in danger in 1994.
The LifeWeb project focused on this corridor, and designed and implemented conflict resolution strategies. Community conservation committees were established to facilitate dialogue between the park authorities and communities. Communities were supported in agricultural activities and with microcredit schemes and, as a result, illegal activities within the corridor were reduced and many illegal farmers left the corridor. A corridor reforestation project was started. Lessons learned from this conflict resolution project have helped to kick-start similar activities in other areas of the park.
Furthermore, LifeWeb supported the park authorities in monitoring the eastern lowland gorilla. Park rangers were trained in MIST, a management information system which collects and analyses data on wildlife populations and law enforcement efforts. A specific monitoring component focused on health monitoring to improve human and great ape health, with support from Coopera. Monitoring activities were conducted in areas which have not been surveyed since the late 1990s, such as Kasese, and the LifeWeb intervention helped to establish a ranger post in this remote area.
Work in Kahuzi-Biega National Park remains challenging; nevertheless, some promising results have been achieved, such as the start of a rehabilitation programme in the Nindja corridor. This is an excellent approach which has the potential to be replicated in other areas both within the park and outside, in other protected areas.
KahuziBiega National Park
Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN)