Hi this is Vhosi, Social Assistant at Mount Tshiabirimu for the Gorilla Organization.
During the first week of June, we observed an ‘Environment Week’, packed full of activities including tree-planting, conferences, film screenings, the airing of broadcasts, drama, and talks with students. The focus was both combating climate change, and promoting the Year of Gorilla 2009. With the active participation of 72 children from Tuvuke and Buswagha primary schools, in addition to 42 members of SAGoT (Solidarité des Amis des Gorilles de Tshiabirimu) in the villages of Burusi and Buswagha, we planted 1,080 trees as a gesture towards combating climate change. We also distributed 20,087 trees to 80 members of SAGoT, which are to be planted around the gorillas’ habitat.
Children from Burusi
The city of Butembo is 60km from Mt T, and its inhabitants consume around 30,000kg of charcoal weekly. Here, we organised a 6km walk at which 120 children from Katsya Primary School carried tree seedlings through the main street of Butembo. Other participants on the walk were The Urban Environment Conservation Authority, members of the ANR (Appui au Reboisement National) and the ACEKAVU (Association des Consommateurs de l’Eau de Katwa et Vuthetse). The walk ended at the Mayor’s office in Butembo. The Mayor of Butembo welcomed the walkers and congratulated the initiative. He said, “Motor vehicles dominate our economy too greatly. And they, along with the felling of trees have a tremendous impact on the environment. Caring for the natural environment, for example by planting trees, is very positive. This is especially the case when children are involved in the activities, as we need to invest in the future for the benefit of future generations.” He then led us to the area where we were to plant 1,700 trees (donated by ACEKAVU and ANR) with the help of the UN and police urban officers. The tree-planting took us five hours.
We involved local authorities because transforming hard-set attitudes requires a concerted campaign that is backed by Government and led by NGOs. And effective community groups must act as a catalyst to others. Such education not only increases knowledge, but also improves awareness of the value of trees as an integral part of the natural environment and as an important element of our cultural heritage. This awareness can then be passed on by the students to other sections of the community. The passing on of knowledge from people who have received education to others is an important part of education campaigns. Therefore, we invited three speakers to speak at a conference, with an audience of more than 250 students from four local universities in Butembo City.
In his speech on ‘Climate change – causes, consequences and salvation’, Professor Vyakuno of the Université Catholique du Graben said, “The forest lights up our life. We are dependent on its bounty for our health, happiness and progress. Deprived of it, we suffer. Deprived of it, we are in darkness. So let us keep the light burning by keeping our forests ever green. The forest is life itself, and our life too. Therefore, we need to plant trees wherever forests have been destroyed”. Then, he congratulated the Gorilla Organization on having led the children and others in the tree-planting effort and for organising the conference. Dr Mundama, in his speech on the carbon process, invited students to participate in conserving the Earth’s resources. He warned that damage to the vitality and diversity of nature, along with a rapidly increasing population and the demand for resources are intimately related to poverty and a sub-standard quality of life that affects everybody. He added that we need to be aware of these problems and to identify actions to stabilise population growth and moderate consumption.
Finally, Jean Claude Kyungu informed the students about the illegal fisheries on the west shores of Lake Edouard. He warned that this illegal fishing not only affects the biodiversity of Lake Edouard, but also the economy of local communities and so the vitality of other ecosystems such as Mt T. We then screened an exciting film about the Great Apes to the attendees.
Two days later, I took two students from Butembo on an education campaign in Masereka Village. There, they were able to pass on in the local language those messages that they had learnt from the conference in Butembo to more than 500 villagers. The celebration of Environment Day was bright and colourful, with traditional dances and drama being enjoyed by all. Esdras Kisonia, one of the two students who took part in this education campaign, has dedicated two poems to nature conservation – one regarding the preservation of gorillas and the other regarding the importance of tree planting to combating climate change.
Kyondo, 9th June 2009
Vhosi Jean de Dieu.