The Democratic Republic of Congo is home to the second-largest rainforest in the world, after the Amazon. We are the second lungs of the Earth.
STARTED IN: 2015 WOMEN SERVED ANNUALLY: 275 TREES PLANTED: 70,000
WOMEN EMPLOYED: 4
Due to centuries of misuse, and now especially to mining and agriculture, Congo has experienced major deforestation. As a result we are less protected from the effects of climate change. Not to mention the harm that this does to the global ecosystem, and the potential for carbon-sequestration that has been lost.
In addition, in rural areas, families depend on wood for their fuel. Now they have to walk farther and farther away to find it. And of course, as with most grueling mundane tasks, the women are the ones responsible for bringing wood home. They spend many hours a day walking to find wood to bring home in order to be able to cook and feed their families.
We are planting trees! It could not be more simple, or more powerful, than that. We've planted 70,000 in our first two years of the project, and we're averaging 50,000 trees every year.
We plant in areas close to villages, where the villagers can communally manage the mini-forests. As the trees grow, women won't have to walk so far to find their wood - they will be able to harvest directly from the village forested sites, while preserving the old-growth forest. We hope that the village plots will eventually merge with the remaining forest.
We have also observed that when we have more trees, we get more rain. They help to purify our air, with noticeable effects. They also prevent waste from washing into our water supply, helping to curb the spread of diseases like cholera.
We operate four nurseries in four different villages, benefiting multiple different tribes. Three women work full-time in each nursery, and a team of women transplant the trees into the plots when they are big enough.
In addition to planting trees, the project addresses deforestation through:
Environmental education for local communities;
Stopping deforestation by removing the need for wood harvesting from the old-growth forest;
Livelihood development activities (income generating) with the purpose of reducing the local community’s dependence on Itombwe's natural forest
We promote women's empowerment and economic independence through this project. Not only are the women who work in the nurseries paid for their efforts, but women become the owners of the trees they plant. We aim to secure land ownership for women and Indigenous communities. As it is stated in the forest code/law of DR Congo, Article 9: “The trees in a village or its immediate environment or in a collective or individual field are the collective property of the village or of the owner of the field.”
We started this program in 2014 thanks to the Women's Earth Climate Action Network (WECAN). WECAN is our ongoing partner in the project.
Funding for this program up until now has come from LUSH Cosmetics. Thank you LUSH! We couldn't do it without you.
In addition to the women in the villages of Itombwe around our center, we work with Indigenous Pygmy women of the even more remote areas of Itombwe.