Where the Congo and Lomami Rivers towards the north of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Isangi project protects over 187,000 hectares of one of Earth's most biodiverse rainforests from deforestation. By sucking in and storing carbon, forests play a critical role in climate change mitigation; chopping trees down, however, does the opposite.
The remarkable project is alleviating local poverty by promoting sustainable economic opportunities and developing education initiatives, bringing a brighter future for the 33 villages in Isangi.
Instability is creating an uncertain future for many Congolese
Despite the rolling green hills, fertile land and the thick rainforest that covers almost half the country, violence, political turmoil and instability continue to plague the country. Without an end in sight, the project aims to find locally driven solutions that create opportunities and ensure that the Congo Basin rainforest, one of the last in Africa that survive the ice age, remains standing for generations to come.
The Isangi project is home to the thick rainforest of the Congo Basin
Breaking the cycle of deforestation with long-term thinking and quick, practical action
The Isangi project covers 180,000 hectares of rainforest, protecting the dense vegetation from being burned or chopped down to make way for mainly subsistence agriculture by providing forest-dependent communities with alternative means to make a living. The project puts the needs and cultures of local residents at very the heart of the project, running dozens of workshops, training sessions, public meetings, over 75 focus groups and many lectures to explain the project and hear people's views, opinions and ideas. Each village has a Local Development committee consisting of 15 elected members that discuss new initiatives and help communicate with the rest of the village. Communities have been taught new skills and provided with the necessary resources to start out on their own, for example there are 4 teaching gardens where farmers can try new techniques, receive seedlings and tools to use on their own plots.
New opportunities are created for locals, the forest is protected and wildlife flourishes
Sparks of hope and prosperity are catching
The Isangi project is giving local residents fresh hope. Unemployment used to be widespread across the project, now people are empowered to become involved in fish farming or growing cacao, coffee or caterpillar trees (a local delicacy!). People are also healthier, there is a health clinic open 24 hours a day with 2 full-time nurses and 5 village wells upgraded to reduce contamination in the wet season, with more planned. A major focus of the project has been education for children, since starting the project has paid the salaries of all the teachers at a primary and secondary so that at least 200 more children could go to school.
With these successful initiatives pressure on the forest has been significantly lifted, in fact, across the project deforestation rates have fallen to between 30 to 100%. Not only does this store significant amounts of carbon it protects the habitat of many endangered and endemic species!
Education initiatives and environmental awareness mean the next generation will benefit from the forest too