Community Development for Conservation
When people see a bright future for themselves and their children, they are empowered to conserve the wildlife and environment that is their heritage. The communities bordering gorilla habitat in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo have high rates of poverty, suffer the devastations of civil war, and in Rwanda have among the highest population density on the continent. It is unrealistic to expect them to engage in conservation activities that may further depress their quality of life. The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International provides community development programs in the areas where we work in both countries to help people raise their standard of living in many ways.
Some highlights of our community development programs include:
The Union of Associations for Gorilla Conservation and Community Development in Eastern Congo (UGADEC)
The Fossey Fund has helped local leaders in the eastern DRC to establish and manage a network of gorilla reserves on land donated by their communities, encompassing a vast forested landscape harboring many endangered species. These reserves are providing the basis for a variety of local development projects, including local clinics, schools, microenterprises and plans for gorilla tourism.
In 2003 UGADEC established the Tayna Center for Conservation Biology (TCCB), which offers college degrees to youth from the communities, so they can staff the reserves or take jobs such as teacher or journalist. TCCB has trained over 500 Congolese conservationists.
The Fossey Fund provides technical assistance, including agricultural consultants and soil nutrients to increase crop yields, to a widows’ organization near the Tayna Nature Reserve in the Congo. They earn enough money from their crops to supply food to the Bingi orphanage that the Fossey Fund also supports, and provide a small income for more than 240 widows, many of whom are too old to work. The women also designed a rotating credit program and used some of the profits to purchase and reforest an acre of land as a way of thanking the Fossey Fund and the Tayna Reserve for providing their startup funds.
African Conservation Action Villages: Kasugho and Bisate
The Fossey Fund has designated two villages near where we protect gorillas as model Conservation Action Villages to demonstrate how effectively conservation and humanitarian programs can and must work collaboratively to produce a successful, healthy environment for people and endangered species.
Kasugho, located in the North Kivu Province in the Democratic Republic of Congo, is the largest inhabited area near the community-based Tayna Nature Reserve. Local development programs include a community radio station, run by TCCB students, that provides conservation messages and local and international news to some 300,000 people; a primary school for children orphaned by AIDS or civil war; the Mulinde Ngila Medical Center; and a hydroelectric power station that supplies electricity to the medical center, TCCB and the town of Kasugho. The Mulinde Ngila Medical Center serves approximately 20,000 people each year, treating malaria, parasites, nutrition-related diseases, sexually transmitted diseases, metabolism diseases (diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure), diseases caused by lack of clean water, and emergency operations.
Bisate is the town nearest to Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, where Dian Fossey founded the Karisoke™ Research Center which the Fossey Fund continues to operate. The Fossey Fund provides uniforms, books, educational supplies, conservation education and school fees for students at the Bisate Primary School (which is attended by children of Karisoke™ Research Center staff); has rebuilt and provides basic equipment, medicines, and staff training and salaries to the Bisate Clinic; and has installed systems that collect and distribute clean water to the school, the clinic, and the community.
The Fossey Fund's community development in Africa reaches deeper
Read about the Fossey Fund’s Ecosystem Health program that provides parasite testing and treatment, hygiene education, protein access projects, and access to clean water. It also funds renovation, staff salaries and training and supplies for rural clinics, many of which were looted during wartime.
The Fund supports orphanages in both Rwanda and the Congo. Our education programs help rebuild rural schools, help pay for teacher salaries, educational supplies and school fees, and offer conservation education to help communities understand the links between nature conservation and economic well-being.