Economic sustainability for the people of the Kahuzi-Biega region may mean long-term stability for the great apes that share the forest.
Kahuzi-Biega National Park is one of the last remaining habitats of the eastern lowland gorilla, and the personnel who guard this United Nations World Heritage Site in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo are their last line of defense against poachers. Despite the fact that these guards risk their lives in the service of conservation, they are paid very little, and their families often live a poor and uncertain life.
To help remedy this, the Canadian Ape Alliance, with help from the Rotary Club of Norfolk Sunrise, established a cassava-grinding mill at Tshivanga Station, the park headquarters. Launched in the fall of 2007, the mill is used to grind cassava, corn and soybeans for resale as flour for a collective of 45 women living at Tshivanga, providing them with a much-needed income.
Previously, women from Tshivanga bought cassava from trucks that passed by their village and then carried heavy sacks on their backs for up to 12 kilometres on dirt roads to have it ground into flour.
In addition to generating income, the new mill has eliminated this backbreaking work. Ultimately, economic sustainability for the human inhabitants of the region will translate into long-term stability for the great apes that share the forest and its scarce resources.
Kahuzi-Biega National Park contributed land next to the living-compound at Tshivanga for the mill house. The project was initiated by the Canadian Ape Alliance and we continue to provide business training and assistance to the women’s cooperative responsible for the mill.
While Strong Roots Congo, our Congolese partner organization, remains responsible for the program, the objective is to have the mill become fully independent and self-sustaining. The cooperative will make collective decisions concerning its upkeep and operation and will also assume authority over how income from the mill is spent or allocated.