In a remote part of the Congo Basin, Vie Sauvage has pioneered a holistic model for community development, conservation, and peace-building, helping create and manage a 4,875 square kilometer reserve for the bonobo (a great ape), and other endangered species. Deeply-rooted indigenous traditions see the bonobo as close relative to humans and forbid its hunting or eating. Local economic, social and health needs drive the planning of conservation activities, and support community ownership and mobilization. The initiative has created jobs in the management of the reserve and ecotourism. Basic health care, education programs, and agricultural cooperatives as well as a micro-enterprise program provide a perspective for isolated indigenous villages. Community activism helped achieve national government recognition for the community reserve, which is managed by Vie Sauvage. Several efforts for replication are underway. A local slogan exemplifies the connection between conservation and sustainable development pathways: “Help bonobos and they will help you”.
Equator Prize Winner: 2020
Year of establishment: 1999
Location: Tshuapa, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Ecosystem: Forests, wetlands and rivers