The Bolobo Territory, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, shelters one of the largest populations of bonobos (Pan paniscus). This ape, endemic to the country, is classified according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as being Endangered.
The main problem in the project zone concerns the destruction of the bonobo habitat. The forest is threatened by deforestation casued by commercial logging and sub-optimal governance of natural resources in the region. Further damage is done, at a lesser scale, by the slash-and-burn practices of the villagers and the exploitation of the forest for charcoal production. The destruction by the local population is largely caused by their ignorance and especially by the need for food and the lack of financial income.
At the same time, the natural resources necessary for the survival of the local human populations are decreasing rapidly in the Bolobo Territory.
In light of these problems, the local NGO Mbou-Mon-Tour and nine local communities decided to protect their forest through awareness campaigns and the creation of a community reserve for bonobos. This is one of the most important areas for bonobo conservation and its management will be completely the responsibility of local communities. In return for their conservation efforts, alternative sustainable economic activities such as ecotourism and agroforestry are developed. The objective of this project is to protect and to value the biodiversity with the aim of making nature conservation a driving force behind economic and social development for the local populations.
The outcomes that expected are the following:
- The creation of a Communal Forest Reserve for Bonobos of 87,735 hectares is approved by national authorities and the community reserve has a management plan.
- Regular patrolling of forest reserve shows reduction in illegal practices and stable or increased numbers of bonobos and other threatened species.
- More than 80 % of the population of Bolobo, Yumbi, Mushie, Inongo and Kutu territories is aware of the real danger ensuing from an unsustainable exploitation of natural resources and respecting the laws concerning threatened species within the reserve.
-MMT and the villagers are ready to welcome the first eco-tourists. Bonobos have been habituated to human presence and infrastructures have been erected.
- The nutrition of a part of the local population is diversified and improved through the development and implementation of sustainable agriculture and agroforestry pilot projects.