With the Project:
Young conservationists learn about reforestation in the Congo
The German association called ‘Lernen-Helfen-Leben’ initiated a reforestation project in South Kivu of Democratic Republic of the Congo, where young environmentalists have been organized, trained and promoted in local groups. High demand of charcoal and firewood for households’ energy requirements and refugees from Rwanda have led to deforestation in Congo. A sustainable change in the population's awareness of the future issues of agriculture and forestry in the region can only succeed if young people become enthusiastic about sustainable forest management. For this reason, the project has particularly taken care of the integration of young people. Children and schools have been engaged into the forest program in a special way, through full-time employees and a special child and youth-oriented educational program where they playfully introduce and teach the subject. Besides, in communal gardens the children learn how to grow eggplants, tomatoes, onions, carrots, amaranth and other vegetables. Selling these vegetables, they were able to earn $300 in 2019.
The biggest drivers of deforestation in the Congo rainforest over the past years have been small-scale subsistence agriculture, clearing for charcoal and fuelwood, and urban expansion. Most recently, the households’ energy requirement (especially charcoal) in the provincial capital, Bukavu, and the millions of refugees from Rwanda (after 1994) have caused clear-cuts in the region. Today, the mountains in the east are bare except for very small remnants. In addition, a grassy landscape has developed that does not offer any effective protection against erosion and offers only very little benefit for the local population. Besides, cooking is often done on the three-stone stove, which has the highest demand for wood compared to other fireplaces. Women and children in particular have to spend a considerable part of their working day looking for firewood. Thus, the complete deforestation intensifies the spiral of impoverishment in the region.
The project gives the children and youth an opportunity to engage in reforestation. They actively help with planting trees and are also involved in combating the bush fires in a variety of ways during the dry season. In communal gardens the children learn how to grow eggplants, tomatoes, onions, carrots, amaranth and other vegetables that they now have in Luhwinja, Kaziba and Katana for sale and were able to buy more animals with their income. In the year 2020, the five supervisors were looking after 19 groups consisting of 956 children from different regions. These young people go on excursions into the surrounding forests, in particular to get to know the native tree species, and non-timber forest products such as beekeeping, mushrooms, fruits or medicinal herbs. This will prepare them for future challenges of their rural region. They learn about the benefits of forests and how trees are planted, and also learn the painting and drawing of trees and leaves. Environmental protection and climate change with their consequences are also topics in the groups. They get to know the current problems of climate and environmental protection in relation to their own local environment.
Children and young people do not have a high status in the traditional society of this region which was changed in the course of this project. The children learned things that were not yet known at home. They convinced their parents to bring changes, for example growing a greater variety of vegetables in the garden or planting trees, composting and many other things. The children also discussed these topics with the other students and teachers in their schools, which greatly helped to increase awareness among other students about the importance of climate and environmental protection. Parents report that they received many new ideas from their children who spent time with these conservationists. The children also often motivated their parents to take part in the training.
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