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Helping Communities

Conservation is a Community Effort

We believe that an integral part of successful and sustainable conservation is the involvement and engagement of local communities. That is why our tag line is “Helping people. Saving gorillas.”

Conservation succeeds best when it is a community effort. Yet many local people who live where we work face critical needs, such as clean water, food security and limited livelihood opportunities. Our community programs help address these issues and also bring education programs to thousands of children and adults. Conservation thrives when people are thriving too.

Conservation Programs in Local Communities

Every year, we work with local primary schools and reach more than 8,000 elementary school children with supplies and learning materials, courses, and teacher training. We also lead teacher training programs that help equip primary school teachers to provide conservation education even more widely.

Citizen Science is a program we provide for secondary schools in Rwanda. It includes environmental clubs, class work and lectures on the scientific process, creating school gardens, and actual field research. Each year, students work on different conservation research topics, such as migratory birds, butterflies, and climate change. 

Other projects we help facilitate for young students include a conservation debate program, summer camp at our Ellen Campus, and special activities for World Gorilla Day each year.

students planting avocados
students hugging

Meeting Basic Needs in Local Communities

mushroom project

The communities located near gorilla habitat often are impoverished and face many challenges in their daily lives, such as limited food resources and lack of access to health care and clean water. When people have to focus on meeting their basic needs, they often rely on the gorillas’ forest home for hunting, firewood, water, or crop land. The Fossey Fund has programs targeted at meeting basic needs in these communities, which not only helps people but also supports effective conservation efforts.

To help address food security and livelihood needs, we operate programs aimed at increasing food alternatives through growing new crops with high nutritional value, planting fruit trees, and creating tree nurseries. While helping people directly, these programs can also reduce human pressures on the animals and plants of the forests. Other such programs include bee-keeping, bread-making, sewing and even mushroom-growing.

We also help local communities with general educational needs, such as our literacy program for women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo who have not had access to formal schooling.