The saving of the Luki Biosphere Reserve with WWF support

Posted on 09 April 2018
Luki Biosphere Reserve
WWF DRC’s conservation agenda has highlighted the Luki Natural Reserve, the biodiversity of which was once threatened, and has effectively contributed to the ownership of the conservation program by local communities and other key actors such as ERAIFT  - Regional School / Postgraduate degree in Integrated Planning and Management of Forests and Tropical Territories - through a participatory approach.
WWF DRC officially announced the closing of its program in the Kongo-Central province after 14 years of activities implementation and support that pro-duced visible and very encouraging results like the presence of chimpanzees and other large mammals in the Luki Natural Reserve.
A short distance from the city of Boma in the Kongo-Central province, formerly  Bas-Congo, in the extreme south-west of the Democratic Republic of Congo, lies a natural stronghold, the Luki Biosphere Reserve, created in 1976 and officially recognized by UNESCO, which covers an area of 33,000 hectares.
The natural forests area around this reserve has been under great threat for decades because of unregulated illegal activities by local communities. This threat was exacerbated by other factors such as the lack of involvement of provincial authorities, access to illegal exploitation of the reserve by local residents  but also the population growth around the reserve. Indeed, because of its proximity and close economic ties with the capital  city Kinshasa, the Kongo-Central province is one of the provinces where human impact on the natural environment is one of the highest in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It was therefore crucial and imperative to tackle this issue while balancing the province's development goals with the protection of its natural resources.
Thus, the Worldwide Fund  for Nature (WWF) developed and set up a conservation programme in the Kongo-Central Province, which aims to reverse the process of forests and lands degradation, to recover savannas and provide socio-economic and environmental benefits to local communities. But also contribute to rural development, participate actively in the fight against poverty, preserve the biodiversity of the province and thus mitigate the effects of climate change.
2004, WWF kicked off activities in the province
WWF DRC started implementing activities in the Kongo-Central province in 2004, with the Belgian cooperation funding through a support project on the DRC Management of Forest Ecosystems in four particular areas: The city of Kisantu for the rehabilitation of the Botanical Garden; the city of Moanda as part of improving the management of the Mangroves Marine Park; the city of Tshela in the Mbola forest on the border with Cabinda; and finally the Luki Natural Reserve. This project, the first in a series, had one key objective, the establishment of a development programme in conformity  with the then highly threatened reserve objectives.
In 2008, the Support Project for Sustainable Agricultural Production and Food Security in the Boma and Bas-Fleuve district known as ''PAPASA '', funded by the European Union, started. This project, recognized for its excellent performance, lasted 4 years and affected nearly 10,000 households, or more than 50,000 people in the agricultural sector.
WWF also developed a third project called the Sustainable Community Support Project, financed by the Belgian Cooperation for a 2 years period - January 2009 to December 2010. Two important partners, namely, ACODES in Moanda in the Mangroves Marine Park and PARC in Tshela in the MBola forest, on the outskirts of the Cabinda enclave worked alongside WWF DRC. In addition to producing several reference documents for local governance, this project had the merit of duplicating Luki's model towards two other biosphere reserves, those of Yangambi in the DRC and Dimonika in Congo Brazzaville.
In 2013, two new projects were launched to capitalize on key achievements. The LUKI REDD + project implemented from 2013 - 2016 in the framework of the Reduction of Emissions due to Deforestation and Forest Degradation, financed by the Congo Basin Forest Fund and supervised by the African Development Bank. This project has contributed particularly to the mitigation of deforestation and forest degradation but also to the implementation of a program of savannas assisted regeneration and reforestation for the production of sustainable wood energy.
And the PASSAGAR project, funded by the European Union,the main results of which enabled to strengthen and consolidate agricultural and rural governance;  increase sustainable agricultural production in the region; improve farmers' incomes through a pooled marketing system; refurbish rural roads; launch the land use process according to national planning priorities and improve the nutritional education of families on the reserve surrounding.
WWF's interventions in the Kongo-Central consisted all these years in reconciling the conservation objectives and natural resources protection with those of the overall socio-economic development of rural populations. In other words, WWF has worked tirelessly for the past 14 years to support the sustainable development of the province and its people. 
Saving the threatened biodiversity of the Luki Natural Reserve
From a precarious situation due to the aforementioned threats, the Luki  Natural Reserve is now better preserved thanks WWF and partners’ efforts . All these have produced visible and very encouraging results. As an illustration, we can mention the reported presence of chimpanzees as well as other large mammal species, including black-backed duiker, black-fronted duiker, harnessed gub, blue duiker in the context of biological inventories carried out by the WWF in 2016 which revealed this presence of wildlife  thought to have disappeared in this site.
WWF ends its programme termination in the Kongo-Central province
On February 18, 2018 WWF officially announced its programme termination in the Kongo-Central province in a ceremony massive participation the WWF programme beneficiaries in the province. Local communities and beneficiaries of the conservation programme, attending this event, praised WWF DRC and expressed their gratitude for  WWF DRC support for 14 years.
At the closing ceremony of the WWF DRC program in the Kongo-Central, Mr. Bruno     Perodeau, WWF DRC Conservation Director, said: "We have benefited from the indispensable support from all authorities of the province, the Governor’s Office, the Boma City Mayor, the decentralized administrations, without forgetting traditional  a local authorities and the representatives of the local communities. '
Technical, financial and institutional supports from partners such as the EU, FAO, UNESCO, the MAB program, the African Development Bank, ERAIFT, the Royal Museum of Central Africa, RAPAC, CBFF, the Belgian Cooperation, the Ministry of Education and Research, the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, INERA, BDA, HPP, CEDIL, BRGDRM, PACT, ACODED, AMAR and many other NGOs greatly contributed to the success of our program in the Kongo- Central Province, he added.
WWF DRC National Director, Jean-Claude MUHINDO has, meanwhile, encouraged communities to take up the torch of  conservation  to ensure continuity in the efforts undertaken for sustainable development in the province. He also urged the beneficiaries to make good use of acquired knowledge from different WWF DRC trainings and      promised WWF DRC collaboration despite  the physical office  closing in the province.
Mr. John Ngoma, President of Coapma  - Mayombe Beekeepers Co-operative said:
"The support of WWF will remain unforgettable. Initially, we were 20 to be trained by WWF in beekeeping. Today, we are 500, grouped in 12 associations. Thanks to these trainings and techniques learned, we currently produce 11 tons of honey a year. We are and will remain very grateful to WWF for this knowledge transfer and the          resulting empowerment. We will continue to work to sustain what we have learned. "
The Vice-President of the Lemba Enhanced Chikwangue Mothers' Association, Mrs. Celestine Bavinga Diakese, expressed her gratitude with these words:
" WWF DRC programme was a real training school and we are very proud of it. Today, women of Mayombe, produce ‘chikwanges’ (cassava breads) and improved stoves through trainings provided by  WWF. We are all participating today in the preservation of the Luki Natural Reserve. « 
WWF  DRC and all partners’ efforts in the Democratic Republic of Congo to move      towards sustainable land use have produced very positive results in the Kongo-Central Province in the framework WWF DRC Kongo-Central program - an encouraging model for other countries that are also seeking to reduce deforestation and forest degradation.
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Luki Biosphere Reserve
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