Environmental Preservation Program
The goals of this program are:
To create a protective buffer zone to prevent soil erosion
To improve the water table
To improve the management of wood resources for area inhabitants
To increase the sequestration of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere
The Democratic Republic of Congo is a country with the greatest extent of diverse tropical rainforests in Africa, covering more than 100 million hectares.
Approximately 45% of the Congo is covered by primary forest, which provides a refuge for several large mammal species driven to extinction in other African countries. Overall, the country is known to have more than 11,000 species of plants, 450 mammals, 1,150 birds, 300 reptiles, and 200 amphibians. Despite this richness, over the past ten years these forests have been the site of terrible violence and immense human suffering.
The loss of trees in the Congo plays a significant role in the climate change crisis. Worldwide, the conversion of forests has contributed significantly around the total carbon build up in the atmosphere. And it continues - deforestation still accounts for over 20% of emissions a year.
The Reforestation Project
The project is located in the Ruzizi Valley, at the northern tip of Lake Tanganyika, across the border from Rwanda and Burundi. The Ruzizi Valley has some of the most fertile land in the world and is known as “the rice bowl of Congo” - that is, before most of the trees and farmland were destroyed during years of civil conflict.
What We Do
In 2009, The Zerofootprint Foundation partnered with Working Villages International to plant 22,000 trees in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
Effective forest planning and management are important components of this project. With widespread poverty in rural areas, it is not enough to simply plant trees and ensure that no one can cut them down. The types of trees planted must have a distinct value to the villagers in their living state. For these reasons, The Zerofootprint Foundation supports Fiston Malago, a project manager and trained agronomist in the Congo. Fiston selected several practical species of trees for this project - two of which are of exceptional interest: the neem tree and the moringa tree.
Neem Tree (Azadirachta indica)
The neem tree provides many benefits to this community. It is a fast-growing tree known for its drought resistance and its ability to grow in many different types of soil. Neem is also one of the very few shade-giving trees that thrive in drought-prone areas, and has many therapeutic and healing qualities and many practical uses. For example, neem trees act as a natural insecticide and insect repellant. The slender branches are chewed to clean teeth and prevent cavities, and the oil is used as a skin care product. Neem also has many medicinal properties and has long been reputed to be a treatment for various diseases.
The Moringa Tree (Moringa oleifera)
The moringa tree is highly prized for its leaves and pods, which are nutritional superstars - they contain all essential amino acids, and are a significant source of beta-carotene, protein, potassium, iron, and vitamins A, B, and C. The leaves are cooked and used like spinach, while its pods are cooked to produce an earthy-flavored delicacy. The cooked pods are called “drumsticks” due to the fact that the flavourful part is stripped off the “sticks” in eating, somewhat similar to eating artichoke leaves.
Moringa leaves can also be used for emergency water purification, by setting out sediments and undesirable organisms. Although not as effective as boiling water, in places where fuel is scarce, moringa is called “the mother’s friend” because treating water with moringa improves the production of breast milk and reduces the chance of deadly diarrhea in children.
The moringa tree is highly drought tolerant and grows very quickly. In addition to providing healthy food for humans, moringa leaves also make wonderful forage for cows, reducing the pressure on grass pastures.