DRC: Acacias changing lives (UNDP)

June 13, 2016
A translation for this article is available in French

The shores of Lake Tumba near Bikoro had been growing more and more barren. But five years ago, a local effort to reforest the area began, and the city is once again growing green.

The town of Bikoro lies on Lake Tumba, in the Equateur Province of the western Democratic Republic of the Congo. Young acacia and leucaena trees are taking root there, chosen because they are fast-growing species. The trees are already more than three metres tall in some areas, and a small forest is slowly regenerating.

Amba Eyenga lives in Bikoro. She says her life has been changed by the reforestation. The trees are an important windbreak. Without them, high winds blowing across the lake carry away roofing from homes. She says, “My house is now protected.”

Demand for tree seedlings has also created a new business opportunity for Mrs. Eyenga, who now runs a tree nursery.

Julien Mathe is the president of Groupe d’Action pour Sauveur l’Homme et son Environnement, known as GASHE. The NGO has been supporting villagers near Lake Tumba. Mr. Mathe explains: “The population was unknowingly experiencing the impact of climate change linked to deforestation of the lake’s shores. They did not understand that their way of life had environmental consequences and engendered climate change. It was therefore necessary to involve the public in order to find a sustainable solution.”

The reforestation effort has covered 44 hectares near Lake Tumba and planted 3,450 trees. Villagers have also learned about the importance of forests and good environmental practices.

Mrs. Eyenga says, “Many households were not concerned and did not understand why it was necessary to plant trees. Now I understand the importance of trees for human life.”

The villagers have also found a good use for the acacia seeds. Mrs. Eyenga explains: “The trees also provided a solution for washing my family’s clothes. The green acacia seeds have the same qualities as soap. I grind them and soak them with the clothes before rinsing them the next day. The result is excellent.”

To read the full story on which this article is based, The acacias changed my life, go to: http://www.cd.undp.org/content/rdc/en/home/ourwork/environmentandenergy/successstories/Sample_Success_Story_1.html
Photo: Amba Eyenga Credit: Papy Mulamba, UNDP-DRC 2015