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Posts Tagged ‘Tayna’

A day and a half. I had a day and a half to interview a whole village.  There is so much going on at the Tayna Nature Reserve in the DR Congo that I could spend an eternity discovering all the different ways each individual helped out.  In essence, the reserve was created by the coming together of people dedicated to the success of the project; therefore, not one person could be overlooked when talking about its creation and expansion.

 

 

Guillaume  Kambale Kioma, Program Director for Research at Tayna Nature Reserve (TNR), worked alongside the TNR Program Coordinator Pierre Kakule Vwirisihikya at the Virunga National Park many years ago.  For ten years, Guillaume and Pierre worked through dangerous circumstances.  The Park is a battle ground between rebel groups, charcoal dealers and poachers.  Despite constant threat, Guillaume and Pierre stayed on often without pay.  When Pierre began the Tayna Nature Reserve Project with DFGFI, Guillaume immediately joined in.  “It is better to do community reserves because the population benefits,” he says, “People are less likely to attack the community based reserves because they have a vested interest in it.”  In contrast to his previous job, his post as Program Director of Research would require no guns.  Because the DR Congo is such a mountainous place, the Tayna Reserve survives largely undisturbed by the civil war waging to the south.  Tayna has grown so much in the past years that it now encompasses 90,000 hectares with four stations around the park for the trackers. 

 

 

While all the villages are committed to helping to making the reserve work, funds are always the main problem.  The trackers need brick houses because the current ones are made of mud and they do not have any electricity or potable water at all the stations.  They are also in need of more technical staff and more men in the field.

 

 

The feeling of community is overwhelming.  Everyone is dedicated to the success of the reserve.  I know that this month everyone is going to be working extra hard… the road needs to be repaired!

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Stepping out the door on my first morning in the Tayna Nature Reserve was breathtaking.  Everywhere I looked there were rolling hills covered in forest and mist.  In the distance, one could hear the dancers still dancing from the night before.

 

The Tayna Nature Reserve is at the forefront of conservation innovation.  The idea is simple: instead of forcing the population surrounding a park out with guns, give them reason to celebrate and embrace it.  Let the people become the benefactors and know why they need the reserve. This is called Community Based Conservation. The founder of this concept is Pierre Kakule Vwirasihikya.

 

 

Pierre was born and raised in the city of Butembo, which is the closest urban center to the reserve today.  After finishing high school, he left for Goma where he worked as a guard at the Virunga National Park.  Three years later he was chosen to go to Cameroon where he would study about conservation for the next two years.  His dedication to conservation fortified and when he returned to the Virunga National Park he became Chief Warden.  His job as Chief Warden put Pierre very often in grave danger; the civil war was waging and is continuing today.  The park was and still is under threat by rebel groups and poachers.  After ten years in this post, Pierre realized that if he truly wanted to make a change he would have to take charge. In 1997, Pierre quit his job in order to try and establish a community reserve for his home region.

 

His first step was to talk to the chiefs of two villages next to the forest.  “They said it is difficult and that benefits go elsewhere and are not recycled into the community,” says Pierre.  These were legitimate concerns, based upon previous conservation attempts in DRC, and Pierre decided that the only way the forest could be protected was if it benefited the community; thus, the concept of a community based nature reserve was born.  Batangi and Bamate became the first two villages to donate land for the reserve.  In 2000, the first general assembly for the Tayna Gorilla Reserve took place.   The assembly agreed that if the reserve was to exist, the finances must be used for development and that in no way should the rangers carry arms.  For the first time in the DR Congo, a forest was going to be protected without the use of guns.

 

 

In 2001, the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International was approached for help and offered to seek funding for the project and provide technical training and legal guidance.  By that time, the reserve was functioning.  The guards and guides were being funded completely by the coordinators and the chiefs.  With DFGFI financial and technical support, Pierre worked on a committee to expand the project.  By 2003, basic medical care, orphanages (needed because parents died from war and disease) and numerous other developmental projects were being supported.  In the same year, in order to ensure that the children of the chiefs and landowners were trained in conservation, a university was built.  The Tayna Center for Conservation Biology University (TCCB) was started with 21 professors on subjects relating to conservation and community development.  In 2006, the University was formally accepted by the DRC Ministry of Education and the subjects expanded to six faculties including medicine. In 2007, 67 students graduated with their bachelor’s degrees.

 

The Tayna reserve has been so successful that other communities have come to Tayna to learn about establishing similar reserves.  Pierre now sits as Executive Secretary of the Union of Associations for Gorilla Conservation and Community Development in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (UGADEC).  The Union brings together eight community reserve association which all put money towards developing their area. Two of the eight community based reserves are recognized by the DRC government as “Protect Areas” which have the same rights as national parks but are managed by the communities. The other six reserves are in various stages of development to meet their conservation goals to be legally recognized as protected areas.

 

 

In 2004, a Regional Health Clinic was built in order to treat students and local people.  It has since grow considerably and is able to service the entire community and functions to link rural smaller health clinics and provide essential regional life-saving treatment.  In addition, a radio was constructed so that students in journalism could practice their studies and could broadcast on information on conservation and health.  A year later, a primary school was established specifically for the many orphans caused by AIDS and war.

 

It’s almost impossible to exaggerate the impact Pierre has had on these communities.  He has persevered despite the destructiveness of war and poverty.  There is still a great need to invest in DFGFI community initiatives which can become sustainable to reward people for their commitment to conservation. Pierre says, “The point of Tayna was to alleviate poverty and for strangers to come visit through ecotourism initiatives,” says Pierre, “we are proud of our forests and their amazing biodiversity. We are grateful that DFGFI would help us when no one else was interested.”

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