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INSIDE THE BOLOMBA & INGENDE REDD+ PROJECT: A LOOK AT THE ENVIRONMENTAL AND COMMUNITY BENEFITS



The Congolese company, COCAF (Commercial Company of Africa) and the American company, PECDC (Pan-African Environmental Conservation and Development Company) have initiated a major REDD+ project to conserve three large forest areas located in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in the territories of Bolomba and Ingende in the Province of Equateur. These forests are rich in foliage, fresh water sources, and home to diverse wildlife such as gorillas, bonobos, chimpanzees, elephants, okapis, rhinos, forest elephants and pangolins. The project is led and managed by PECDC, a United States-based company that identifies and develops sustainable green projects in Sub-Saharan Africa. PECDC promotes green development on the African continent by aligning with the UN sustainable goals to apply the best environmental and sustainability standards and innovations in managed forestry, clean water, bio-energy, agriculture and renewable energy generation.

COCAF and PECDC have witnessed the exploitation of the forest areas in Bolomba and Ingende for profit by industrial timber companies and sought to protect the land, its habitats and its communities. Despite the signing of a protocol with the indigenous and riverside populations of the province to prevent logging, the agreements have not been respected to the great dismay and despair of the locals. PECDC is committed to working towards the protection of this land and its biodiversity, as well as sustainable development to improve the quality of life for those that live on it.

The REDD+ project will not only provide desperately needed resources to protect against illegal logging and conserve these three large forests, but will also provide resources to uplift its natural habitat and inhabitants. PECDC and COCAF have worked closely with the local population in order to develop a project that focuses on the conservation of the previous mentioned forests, in addition to five sectors that suffer from a near-total lack of attention, despite the abundant natural potential:

1. EDUCATION SECTOR

2. ENERGY SECTOR

3. HEALTH SECTOR

4. MOBILITY AND COMMUNICATIONS SECTOR

5. ECONOMIC AND TRADE SECTOR

1. EDUCATION SECTOR


The improvement of any group of individuals requires basic education. The Congolese government has made some efforts to increase the number of public schools at the primary and secondary levels by providing each village with more than 1,000 inhabitants with a school headed by a school principal.

In total, there are 347 primary schools in the territory of Bolomba with 3,932 teachers; at the secondary level, there are 242 schools with 3,009 teachers.

Ingende has 176 primary schools with 1,343 teachers and 96 secondary schools for 989 teachers.

Each primary school has between 12 and 18 classrooms, with the number of pupils ranging from 20 to 30.

Despite an increase in the number of schools in the region, teachers are lacking in training and skills as well as materials to give a proper education. All of the classrooms are sorely lacking in resources vital to learning including desks and chairs. The students sit on two bamboo stems supported by 4 or 6 stuffed piles on the ground. This causes not only discomfort, but a difficult environment for learning.


The classrooms from 1st to 4th grade have a lack of blackboards; only the 5th and 6th grade classes have them. Some primary school students have never seen or used school books, which are essential for their intellectual development.

The floors of the classrooms are made of dirt, the roofs of thatch, and the walls covered with mud. Management is forced to send the young students home when a storm is announced as these two territories are straddling the equator line and experience tropical rain all year round. Understandably, there is the urgency to improve the school experience.

This is one of the objectives pursued by PECDC and COCAF. We are committed to building improved facilities using sustainable models, and to providing all schools with suitable desks, chairs, textbooks, and supplies based on the agreement signed with local populations.

2. ENERGY SECTOR


There is a total absence of electricity in the villages where these forests are located. Often the residents will use candles for light after sunset or car batteries in order to watch TV and/or listen to the radio. There was a limited quantity of torches distributed in the past, but not with any regularity.

PECDC proposes to implement an anaerobic biomass project to efficiently and effectively use forest residues and farming wastes to produce electricity for these villages in partnership with the best in class biomass organizations such as Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB).

This will allow the locals to have access to electricity and therefore regular light, computers, internet, and telephones.

3. HEALTH SECTOR


Another critical sector that has been abandoned in both territories is a proper health system. Apart from a few private, low-quality centers operating without properly equipped staff or laboratories, and no nearby pharmacies; the only hospital on the territory is a "general reference hospital" which lacks specialized training.

The inhabitants of remote villages within the territories, without means of transport, are obliged to travel distances up to 22 miles to bring the sick and elderly to proper medical care.

COCAF, which already has experience in this area, is partnering with PECDC to set up a few health centers at strategic points taking into account the number of inhabitants and the distance between villages. It is expected that every health center will have adequate equipment with a focus on improving the availability of laboratories and pharmacies.

4. MOBILITY AND COMMUNICATIONS SECTOR


In addition to a climate of tropical weather and lush vegetation, the territory of Bolomba is somewhat of an island as it is surrounded on all sides by rivers, including three large rivers (Tshuapa, Ikelemba and Maringa-Lopori) and countless tributaries. This geography creates two major problems: a lack of mobility on land due to deteriorating road infrastructure and a lack of mobility via waterways. Transportation has become a huge issue for the locals of Bolomba and any local travel has become uneasy, uncomfortable and even risky.

One goal of this project is to repair existing roadways and build bridges over the many rivers and tributaries in order to improve transportation without excessive water traffic.

5. ECONOMIC AND TRADE SECTOR


Due to deteriorating infrastructure and difficulty in transportation, trade in Bolomba and Ingende has taken a huge hit, and as a direct consequence, poverty has been on the rise in both territories.

To combat this unfortunate reality, PECDC has committed to promoting small-scale trade amongst the villages of the region. PECDC will assist locals in small entrepreneurship projects by providing assistance in opening shops and stands where they can buy and sell food and textiles, and provide services without having to travel long distances.

An important aspect of our project is supporting local projects that have income-generating potential for the locals such as agriculture and the cultivation of food products (cassava, bananas, sweet potatoes, yams, etc.) and bee-keeping (the diversity of flora in the region produces an exceptional wildflower honey). Instead of just harvesting wild crops and natural honey, young people will be encouraged to practice agriculture and beekeeping. We have a beekeeping training center in Mbanza-Ngungu, in the Kongo-Central Province, that capitalizes on the profusion of the multifarious plants and trains in the harvesting of four products of the hive (honey, royal jelly, propolis and bee venom).

We also expect to introduce sustainable fish farming as Bolomba and Ingende are surrounded by an abundance of water as previously mentioned. No one has ever thought of practicing fish farming in the area despite having the perfect environment: the natural fertility of the water due to the continuous fall of foliage, fruits, and berries, constitutes an immense zooplankton thus enriching the water with nutrients necessary for the growth of the fish. In addition to the quality and quantity of the water, there is an impressive diversity of fish including carp, catfish, eel, minnows, shrimp and crayfish. Not only would fish farming help to financially support the local population, the practice is relatively novel and has not been officially explored by agro-industry operators in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

PECDC and its partners are deeply committed to conserving the forests and their natural habitats in Bolomba and Ingende. In protecting these areas, we also intend to protect their communities and provide long term sustainable solutions.

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