In the Itombwe region of the Democratic Republic Congo, the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network, in partnership with SAFECO, ongoingly supports local women leaders in the development of tree nurseries and reforestation efforts in the area of Marunde, Rushasha and Malanda, serving 12 surrounding village areas and impact approximately 1,500 people.
The primary goals of this project are the protection of the remaining Itombwe natural forest from deforestation, the regeneration of new forest, and collaboration with and support of the Indigenous Pygmy peoples of the region in the protection of their traditional lifeways and knowledge.
The project also seeks to act as an avenue for climate mitigation through carbon sequestration. The 20,000 trees planted on 35 hectares this last rainy season will be sequestering 350 tons of carbon per year.
In planting tree seedlings, communities are also reducing reliance on the old growth forest for daily needs. Currently, twenty five percent of the trees planted are for human use, and seventy five percent are for regeneration of the land.
By restoring deforested, damaged lands and simultaneously providing an alternative source for sustainable forest harvesting and substenance – the collaborative program seeks to support the needs of the local Indigenous communities concerning forest use, while acting directly to stop deforestation and associated environmental degradation.
Between the end of December 2016 and into January 2017, women engaged in this project planted over 20,000 trees by hand.
Tree species being planted at this time include: Eucalyptus,Cyprus, Grevillea, Mimosa Scabrella, Croton megalocarpus, African redwood, Cedrela serrata, Acacia mearnsii, Calliandra calothyrsus and Maracuja.
Mixed plantings of Eucalyptus with other species such as Acacia or Grevillea is being employed as a way to improve soil fertility. Tree species have also been chosen due to characteristics including being fast-growing, desiccation-tolerant, drought-tolerant and adaptable.
The deforestation situation in Itombwe is an alarming condition which needs urgent solutions, and these species and this project are key solutions. For further background and political analysis please see our previous blogs on this project.
Women are the principal stakeholders in this project, and have been working to learn, plan, envision and carry forth construction of the nurseries over the past four years. The women are able to earn money, learn about trees, care for a nursery, and gain support to be able to send their children to school.
Another important benefit from this project concerns the DR Congo forest law, which says that when a community or community member plants a tree or grows a crop, that land becomes their land. By involving women in planting trees, progress is being made to support women in gaining precious land titles to the traditional lands that have previously been unjustly taken from the women and their communities.
In Itombwe, the planting season is from December to February, and tree nursery development takes place from May to October. With the December to February planting season coming to a close, WECAN and women leaders of DR Congo are looking forward to a new season of tree nursery development from May to October. Many women have expressed interest in joining the program and we are thrilled to see the strength of this program grow as we celebrate the growth of the new trees and the protection of the Itombwe’s natural forests.
Additional photos by Stany Nzabas