Sunday, 23 August 2009

A hero of the Congo forest

An interesting video interview just before the 2nd World Congress on Agroforestry starts (Nairobi 23-28/08):
See: TED blog 19/08

Corneille Ewango braved dangers that most of us can’t even imagine, in order to protect the animals and plants of the Okapi Wildlife Reserve during the First and Second Congo Wars. Not long after the war’s official end, Ewango was rewarded for his efforts with a scholarship to the University of Missouri-St. Louis where he earned his master’s degree in Tropical Botany. While studying in the US, he was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize and in 2007 -- the same year that he gave his TEDTalk -- was named a National Geographic Emerging Explorer. Today, he is at Wageningen University in the Netherlands where he is studying for a PhD in Forest Ecology and Forest Management.

Although Ewango continues to succeed and increase his capacity to help his country, the Democratic Republic of Congo, he can only do so much, and the problems of the Okapi Wildlife Reserve and others like it continue. The reserve, named for its high numbers of okapi, is located in the Ituri tropical rainforest in the northeast of the DRC and is one of five World Heritage Sites in the country.

The Ituri region is still one of the most politically unstable areas in the DRC. Conflict between ethnic and military groups presents an insurmountable challenge to conservation efforts. Contributing to the conservation challenge is the Central African “bushmeat” problem, which has developed as poor living conditions have caused many Congolese to poach animals in order to supplement their diet or to gain income. Problems of unchecked, and often illegal, logging and mining also plague the area. The length and severity of the ongoing conflict in the DRC has a devastating effect on its people, as well as its flora and fauna. Ewango’s talk is over two years old, but it describes a crisis that is far from over.

The 2nd World Congress on Agroforestry starts Monday and preparations are hectic here at the World Agroforestry Centre in Nairobi. The reporting team is getting ready to make some buzz about the Congress. Whether you’re participating in the Congress or not, you will be able to follow what’s going on through a variety of channels: