Virunga Environmental Programme (PEVi)

Geographical location:

Africa/Madagascar > Central Africa > Democratic Republic of Congo (Zaïre)

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Summary

Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo is a World Heritage Site and was Africa’s first protected area. Covering 800,000ha, the park contains important forests and is home to the critically endangered mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei)
The aim of the Virunga Environmantal Programme (PEVi) is to contribute to the long-term conservation of Virunga's ecosystem, which forms part of the Albertine Rift highland forest and includes the habitat of the rare mountain gorillas. The project will work on the further development of education and awareness of natural resources management activities to ensure the conservation of the Virunga National Park.

Background

PEVi is a model project for the park authority of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN) and for WWF, because it is entirely lead by Congolese people.

It is implementing catalytic work with local communities living around the park and it continues to operate in a context of civil conflicts. PEVi remained fully operational throughout all the events in DRC and demonstrated adaptive and innovative solutions. It plays a crucial role in the conservation of Virunga and in promoting the links between conservation and the quality of life for present and future generations. PEVi is slowly building a long-term constituency in support of the park.

PEVi has developed a 5-year strategy with ICCN and is working in partnership with the International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP). The challenge for PEVi is to preserve the long-term work achieved so far, despite regional insecurity, and to demonstrate the success of linking environmental education and awareness with the development needs of the local people for the benefit of Virunga National Park.

Objectives

1. Train and inform a significant and additional proportion of the population living around the park on the ecological and economical importance of the park.

2. Help significant numbers of the local community around the park to manage their natural resources, and indirectly the protection of the park.

3. Improve relations between the local people and ICCN in key areas jointly selected with ICCN around the park.

4. Improve the long-term capacity of PEVi to extend its positive protective work for the benefit of Virunga National Park.

Solution

1. Improved management of natural resources in and around the park by the local population.

2. Training and awareness raising of local people around the park, especially youth and women groups.

3. Increased collaboration between ICCN and the local communities.

4. Improved long-term PEVi capacity.

Achievement

- Quantitative documentation of level of encroachment - 90,363 ha encroached since 1998.

- Resolution of the problem of illegal park occupants on the West Coast of Lake Edward. Based on engagements with high ranking territorial administration and the local chiefs on different levels, 5 mixed commissions have been established to spearhead the process that, with the support of key conservation institutions, has helped demarcate 75km of park limits.

- The demarcation process of the Virunga National Park is ongoing; with the necessary tools (database, explanatory documents) set up to assist in the work and in documenting the results. 86 of 293km of park boundaries have been demarcated following the participatory demarcation developed in 2002.

- Initial efforts have been made to prepare forestry plans for the Rutshuru and Masisi territories and to develop productive forestry towards meeting livelihood needs that will ensure the maintenance of park integrity.

- A first survey in 40 years in the Semliki valley has led to the rediscovery of the okapi (Okapia johnstoni) and bongo (Tragelaphus eurycerus), last recorded in August 1959, in the Virunga National Park. There is also the Virunga National Park’s first recorded White-bellied duiker (Cephalophus albiventris).

- Peaceful and voluntary removal of illegal settlers from PNVi in 3 areas entirely evacuated - Tongo, Mavivi-Nyaleke and Karuruma. By August 2005, the removal of illegal people occupying a section of the park area and the participatory demarcation of the park boundary (Tongo) led to recovery of 60 ha by ICCN. In Mavivi-Nyaleke, all the people occupying fields in the park moved out. There were 4,238 families moved out by December 2005, with a total area of 6,370 ha recovered. In Karuruma, evacuation of settlers in the park, in close collaboration with ICCN and other partners (ZSL and WCS), enabled 445 farmers and about 4,200 cattle to move out of the park.

- A significant step in environmental education has been made with a new strategy, magazine Kacheche and a song on hippo protection. Also 246 militaries have been sensitized.

- 645,800 seedlings have been produced with 493 ha of forest and 13.5 ha of green belt planted respectively.

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