Congo, The Democratic Republic of the
About the Implementing organization
Name: The Pole Pole Foundation
Country: Congo, The Democratic Republic of the
Year of establishment: 1992
Type of organization: Community-based association or organization / Legally recognized non-profit status
At least 80% of the population in the DRC depend on charcoal as a source of fuel. This leads to significant deforestation around population centres such as Bukavu, and the charcoal trade provides a revenue stream for a number of rebel groups in the country. Finding a sustainable, peaceful way to provide the charcoal – and other timber products that people use – is vital not only for conservation but to help establish peace in the region.
POPOF has run tree-planting programmes for more than two decades, and in that time has planted over 4 million trees. The organisation grows saplings in tree nurseries and then distributes them among community members, with support provided to plant and look after the trees as they grow. Once the trees reach maturity, some of them are harvested to provide sustainable sources of charcoal and building materials, and new saplings are distributed to replace trees that have been cut down.
Forests / Wildlife
Type of Action
Protection / Restoration / Sustainable use
Sustainable Development Element
Jobs and livelihoods / Disaster risk reduction / Climate action
The project has created a buffer zone between communities and the gorillas in Kahuzi-Biega National Park. This has reduced the number of people entering the park to cut dwon trees, which in turn has also decreased poaching – many people who enter the park to cut trees also lay traps for bushmeat at the same time. Now they no longer need to enter the forest for trees, they do not lay bushmeat traps.
The trees also help to improve soil stability and fertility, and the fight against climate change by absorbing carbon emissions as they grow, and protecting the existing carbon sinks in the Kahuzi-Biega National Park by preventing deforestation.
Sustainable Development Impacts
The trees are helping to improve farmers’ agricultural outputs by improving the quality of soil in their small plots, as well as providing shade for those crops that require it. In addition, the trees are distributed for free to members of the community, who are able to harvest them when they reach maturity. The trees can be sold for charcoal or building mateirals, providing a sustainable source of income for community members. When made into charcoal, they also offer an affordable source of charcoal, helping reduce people’s spend on charcoal, providing them with more disposable income to spend on other necessities and making it easier for them to afford send their pupils to the schools run by POPOF.
The programme could very easily be expanded to a national scale – it uses simple inputs to grow and distribute the saplings in a very cost-effective way. The project has also created an opportunity to gain revenue from Carbon Offset programmes. Two pilot projects are currently being developed, working with UK-based holiday letting agents to offset the annual emissions from their properties by supporting POPOF, as well as a project at King’s College London to offset aeroplane travel by staff at the university by funding POPOF projects. Because the work POPOF does provides benefits to communities and gorillas, in addition to the carbon it offsets, the pilot scheme has proved very popular and got involvement from people who have never offset their emissions before, This offers a new approach to mobilising revenue to fight climate change – putting ‘a face on a tonne of carbon’ to create emotional, positive stories of how carbon offset the lives of people and wildlife.
The project is very replicable. Another charity, Primate Expertise, has developed a similar programme for Idjwi island in Lake Kivu, to restore the forest that has been degraded there to help protect the endemic sub-species of blue monkey living on the island (until recently believed to be extinct). The project is planting trees in the same manner POPOF works, by growing and distributing saplings to communities to restore forestry to bring benefits to both the monkeys and communities living on the island.
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