The Democratic Republic of Congo is home to the world’s second largest rainforest, which is hugely important to the globe’s climate.
Grab for land
Already, the Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 49% of the country’s available agricultural areas (the highest proportion of any nation) have been offered for lease to foreign investors.
In the past, long-running conflict and a lack of roads kept out companies and individuals who might have been interested in exploiting the rainforest.
Now, as the country becomes more stable, farming, mining and logging activities are luring foreign investors. Environmentalists are concerned the trees of the rainforest are very vulnerable, especially since any investment is attractive to such a poor country.
Some local communities are trying to change attitudes to the environment from the ground up. For example, the SOS Children’s Village at Uvira has been keen to plant trees in its grounds. The Village director approached the centre of education and integrated training (ITEC) for help, because ITEC has a nursery and has been planting trees on the hills around.
In the past, many newly-planted trees were either cut down or eaten by livestock such as goats. With help from the children and a programme at the primary school, ITEC is trying to raise awareness among villagers about the importance of reforestation and protecting the rainforests.