All images courtesy of Virunga National Park. All rights reserved | @virunganationalpark
Virunga National Park
For the launch of our Limited Edition DRC Coffee, we’re proud to be supporting the Virunga Foundation. Situated in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the Virunga National Park is a UNESCO world heritage site, and is the region’s most biologically diverse protected area. It is also, unhappily, in a region that has for the last 20 years been deeply impacted by the effects of war and armed conflict.
Alongside essential conservation work, the Park is also committed to supporting the local communities that surround the area; protecting both the wildlife in its tropical forest and the 4 million people that live within a days walk of its borders.
The Problem of Protection
The very nature of the National Park itself raises a difficult, and often uncomfortable, social problem. The land they are protecting and setting aside for conservation and wildlife is of immense economic value for the Congolese people themselves. Taking an extreme view, the Park is effectively depriving the local community of access to the vast resources of the park itself; asking some of the poorest people on earth to pay a further price for conservation.
To deal with this problem, the Park is committed to creating alternative economies for the surrounding communities - focussing on developing three key sectors; tourism, sustainable energy, and sustainable agriculture. The aim is to increase GDP by an extra $1 billion USD, and create over 100,000 jobs. For the Park itself, this is key to helping alleviate the vicious cycles of violence that come from the current (illegal) exploitation of the Park’s natural resources.
The Park itself is aiming to become a major driver of peace and prosperity for the Congolese people, while also offering a template that has the potential to be recreated in other regions grappling with similar challenges.
Alongside this crucial social work, the Foundation has a huge responsibility to manage and protect the Park itself. Each year, Millions of dollars worth of illegally trafficked charcoal, fish, and animal products are taken by armed militia. To combat this, Virunga has to recruit their own rangers. These men and women go through intense selection processes and extensive training, and regularly put their lives on the line to protect the the Park. To date, over 200 brave and committed Rangers have lost their lives.
The best known of the exceptional wildlife the Park has to protect is the Moutain Gorilla. Virunga National Park is home to around a third of the entire population, which reside in the dense forests on the lush slopes of the Virunga volcanoes. Through these animals hinge the success of everything the Park does - for it is the admiration of these animals from the worldwide public that allows the Park and the Foundation the scope to carry on with their work.
To find out more about the Virunga National Park, and the Foundation we’re supporting, just click the link below: