Adventures in REDD+,  Conservation,  Education,  Forest Communities,  Health

Highlights from our Mai Ndombe REDD+ Project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

As we approach the end of 2017, we’re reflecting on all the achievements from our Mai Ndombe REDD+ project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The Mai Ndombe REDD+ project is one of the world’s largest projects, and the first in the DRC. It is located on the shores of lake Mai Ndombe, and protects over 740,000 acres of threatened rainforest. A vast array of biodiversity live in the forest, including endangered elephants and bonobos, the closest extant relative to humans. Mai Ndombe is an essential part of the world’s largest wetland of international importance as recognized by the Ramsar Convention, and is also home to over 50,000 Congolese villagers.

We are all aware about the devastating effects of climate change on forest, and they can be even worse in low-income countries like the DRC. To counter this, our REDD+ project places a value on standing forests as a key element in mitigating climate change. The value of avoiding deforestation is represented by carbon credits or Verified Emission Reductions (VERs). Wildlife Works sells our VERs to progressive corporate leaders and individuals who are committed to reducing their carbon footprints. The income generated is then shared equitably with local landowners and the community who are involved in forest conservation efforts.

The sale of carbon credits brought a significant number of sustainable initiatives to the DRC community in 2017.

Construction of Mbale Elementary School in 2017

Schools in the area faced the biggest infrastructure challenges with inadequate classrooms coupled with poor state of sanitation facilities. Education infrastructure is one of the most basic elements to ensure access to education, so, to address this challenge, we initiated the building of Mbale Elementary School. The 6-classroom school with a 240-student capacity was equipped with one administration building with 3 offices and sanitation facilities. The building was completed at the end of August 2017.

Distribution of Seedlings to Farmers

As one of the world’s poorest countries, farmers in the DRC predominantly grow and sell cassava, a land intensive crop that has very little nutritional value. Also, cassava reduces nitrogen from the soil, and requires a new plot of land to be cleared each year. One of the aims of Wildlife Works agricultural activities is to provide a solution for farmers to diversify crops, improve health and increase revenue as well as minimize the slash and burn agriculture methods. The project has initiated agronomy demonstration sites in 13 villages, about one hectare in size, aimed at teaching the community techniques to produce alternative crops as well as a local source of produce that is sold, and distributed to the community to incorporate into their fields.

As per now, we have distributed seeds for the demonstration gardens in 13 villages, with crops such as onions, tomatoes, celery, cabbage, peppers, cucumbers and eggplant. Our local agronomist team prepares plant nurseries and distributes the seedlings throughout each village. The cucumbers are particularly delicious, and it is great to see some of our team members carry a cucumber with them during the day to munch on as a snack and as a thirst quencher! The practice is beginning to catch on. This agricultural intensification has been crucial in improving food security and wellbeing for the local community.

Commissioning of Mobile Medical Clinics

The current health condition of residents in Mai Ndombe was very poor, with adults and children sometimes dying of treatable infections like diarrhea and appendicitis due to lack of health care. Therefore the need for an improved healthcare workforce and facility was paramount. This led to the commissioning of the Mai Ndombe Medical Clinic with the main aim being to tour the vast project area to provide basic medical assistance and transportation to those in need. We are seeking to improve access and immediacy of medical treatment to vulnerable villages in the project area.

One challenge we encountered is that many young children were not vaccinated against measles and other preventable diseases. Also mothers in these areas are not aware of the benefits of vaccination and some are even fearful of it due to lack of education. To end this, we partnered with Inongo Territory Health Zone with a vaccination program in response to the regular measles outbreaks in our project villages.

Our health zone nurses travel to these areas and during these health awareness trips, they discuss with the villagers common diseases and their equivalent vaccination. Following a health awareness session, a vaccination session is held the next day. It is not unusual for 99% of people to turn up for vaccines!

This year we expanded the vaccination program to 8 more villages ensuring more pregnant women and children are vaccinated against dangerous infections like tetanus.

We are also putting in place ambitious plans like building additional schools and helping to improve access to clean safe water as well as hiring more locals and women from the project area. And as always, we will keep you updated. Happy holidays!

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