U.S. Forest Service International Seminars: Meet Chantal Shalukoma
Each year, the U.S. Forest Service International Programs organizes twelve international seminars where natural resource management professionals from around the world are invited to come together to learn and exchange on different aspects of natural resource management.
Chantal Shalukoma, who participated in the Community Resilience Seminar, is from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and has worked in nature conservation for twenty-eight years. She has worked for ICCN (the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature) in Kahuzi Biega National Park and Lomami National Park, and is currently the Deputy Director of Virunga National Park. Her experiences in different parks, coupled with her studies in rural development and plant biology, have allowed her to acquire a wide range of knowledge that allows her a broad vision of the various sectors of park management, such as biomonitoring and tourism.
Nyiragongo Volcano, Virunga National Park. Photo by Eva McNamara, USFS-IP.
Name: Chantal Shalukoma
Current Position: Deputy Director of Virunga National Park (ICCN)
Diplomas: Bachelor’s degree in rural development at ISDR (DRC), Master’s and PhD in plant biology at ULB.
Hobbies: Reading and playing the guitar.
What may surprise people about you? The joy and positive attitude I have still have after working for nearly 30 years in nature conservation, and my dedication to research despite the increased risk of insecurity in conservation in the DRC.
If you could give advice to young graduates in your field, what would it be? Young graduates must love their conservation work, be passionate about it, and work with their hearts and minds because the sacrifices are enormous and priceless.
ICCN is committed to the sustainable management of biodiversity in the network of protected areas in the DRC, and they work in collaboration with local communities. This mission is of great importance, not only for the Congolese people, but for all of humanity. However, some of the greatest challenges of this work are the insecurity and lack of funds for research. Despite these challenges, Chantal believes that any person, regardless of who they are or where they are from, can enjoy the beauty and deep generosity of nature. This belief solidifies Chantal’s daily commitment to get those around her involved in protecting the unique biodiversity of the Congo Basin.
Gorilla Family, Virunga National Park. Photo by Olivia Freeman, USFS-IP.
For Chantal, participating in the U.S. Forest Service seminar helped her understand that park management should support communities in developing their own ideas for dealing with their problems. They not only need to consent to projects and programs, but should be involved in their development from the beginning. This exchange was an opportunity for her to refresh her technical and theoretical knowledge on improving relationships with local communities, as well to learn more about and exchange with international colleagues on how to ensure that long-term community needs are central to park management objectives.
Since 2006, the U.S. Forest Service International Programs has been sponsoring professionals from Central Africa to attend various seminars. Supporting the capacity building and professional development of leaders responsible for natural resource management is an essential step in helping countries improve their natural resource management and mitigate the effects of climate change. The U.S. Forest Service is committed to working with various partners to provide specialized programs, tools, and opportunities to support their efforts to protect and conserve their forests and natural resources.
Article by Estelle Kiangudi