The goals of this program are to assist a community in need to:
Produce a consistent and sustainable food source
Reduce their dependency on natural resources
Become more self-sufficient
Better provide for themselves, their children, their families, and their communities
Increase their work opportunities
Background - Kahuzi-Biega National Park
A park of lush tropical forest, Kahuzi-Biega National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park is located in the South-Kivu and Maniena provinces in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, on the shores of Lake Kivu, near the Rwandan border. The park is home to a very diverse variety of fauna and one of the last groups of endangered Eastern Lowland gorillas. These endangered gorillas are the key reason for designating this national park as a recognized conservation area.
Along with several other parks in the region, Kahuzi-Biega National Park is drastically impacted by the Congo’s ongoing civil conflict. Fires, poaching, illegal logging, an influx of refugees, and the presence of militias have resulted in a designation on the United Nations’ List of World Heritage Sites In Danger.
There are seven tribes living around Kahuzi-Biega National Park, including the Pygmies. The Pygmies are also called the Batwa, Mbuti, or Bambuti and are considered indigenous people of this area.
The Pygmy Farming Project
Our current projects centre around the Pygmy community on the outskirts of the Kahuzi-Biega National Park. In the 1970s, this community was expelled from their traditional land within the protected parkland. They are currently settled outside the park on land they do not own and they struggle with poverty and social exclusion.
The Pygmies are strongly connected to the land. They have lived on, worshipped, and protected this area for generations. Their traditional culture revolves around the surrounding forests, which provide them with shelter, food, and medicine. These forests shape their culture, spirituality, and entire way of life.
In 1970, the formation of the park resulted in the eviction of several Pygmy communities. They received no compensation or provisions for resettlement. This has created many problems for this group that persist to this day, including social marginalization, limited education and training, economic hardship, loss of their traditional way of life, and lack of land rights.
What We Do
Funded by The Zerofootprint Foundation and implemented by Strong Roots Congo, the Pygmy farming project was inspired by the appeal of the Pygmy community for a place to call their own. The project involves approximately 100 families living around the Kahuzi-Biega National Park area.
Using proceeds from a 2010 fundraising event, Zerofootprint Foundation, in collaboration with Strong Roots Congo, leased 40 hectares of land for this project. The result: families have directly benefitted from an increase in work opportunities, a consistent food source, and a reduced dependency on natural resources.
Each family has the opportunity to use .5 hectares of land during the growing season and receives seeds and agricultural tools. An agronomist provides technical knowledge and offers training and assistance where required. While farming in Congo is typically considered the domain of women, one of the stipulations is that the whole family participates. The village men prepare the land and manage the harvest, while the women tend to the plants.
Currently, in collaboration with Strong Roots Congo, we are raising the funds to purchase the land and make this project sustainable.