Community-led Reforestation: Celebrating the International Day of Forests in Yamba Village

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is home to the second-largest tropical rainforest in the world, the Congo Basin Forest. This vast forest, which spans six countries, is crucial for biodiversity, hosting thousands of plant and animal species, some of which are endemic to the region. The Congo Basin Forest also acts as a significant carbon sink, absorbing vast amounts of carbon dioxide, which helps to mitigate climate change.

In March 2024, the community of Yamba, located in the province of Tanganyika in the Eastern DRC, celebrated the International Day of Forests at MAHILA Primary School. Over 250 students, teachers, staff, and community leaders spent the day learning about forest conservation, biodiversity preservation, plant structure, and climate change. The students also discussed how climate change and deforestation affect their quality of life, and what their role in preserving the ecosystem might look like.

Students and staff from Mahila Primary School pose for a picture with USFS staff to celebrated the International Day of Forests. Photo Courtesy of Semenyo Nyakokpa, U.S. Forest Service International Programs.

A tree-planting activity followed the educational session, and students planted 110 trees at and around the school. The school chose to plant primarily fruit trees, including mandarin, avocado, lemon, and soursop trees. Not only will students be able to enjoy the fruit and the shade from the trees, but the school can sell excess production to fund activities and plans to incorporate the trees into future lesson plans. Before heading home at the end of the day, students were encouraged to care for the newly planted trees, protect them from grazing animals, and share what they had learned with their friends and families.

A satellite image of Mahila Primary School, before over 100 trees were planted. Source: Google Maps.

 

The US Forest Service (USFS), supported by the US Department of State’s Conserving Critical Congo Basin Forests (C3BF) program, is also working with the broader community in Yamba to establish an educational tree nursery in the village. Over three days in March, a group of 34 committee members, including community leaders, worked with USFS reforestation experts to select a site for the nursery, create management plans, and receive basic training in seed germination and seedling care.

Volunteers from Yamba village planting seedlings in the new plant nursery. Photo Courtesy of Semenyo Nyakokpa, U.S. Forest Service International Programs.

The nursery site was selected after evaluating water availability, soil quality, sunlight, access to resources, and proximity to planting areas. A detailed nursery management plan was developed, covering plant production techniques, resource management, and pest control using natural pesticides like rabbit urine and neem extract. The nursery infrastructure, including a shade house, screen, and irrigation systems, was built by community members, adhering to quality and safety standards.

To increase local food production and encourage biodiversity, the community decided that the nursery should prioritize producing fruit and native species. Because there were no seed banks nearby, local fruits were purchased at the market, and committee members were trained in how to extract, treat, and germinate the seeds. Staff were also recruited and trained in plant production and resource management, to manage the day-to-day operations at the nursery.

Seeds were extracted from fruits purchased at the market nearby. Photo Courtesy of Semenyo Nyakokpa, U.S. Forest Service International Programs.

The established plant nursery has the capacity to produce 2500 seedlings annually. Photo Courtesy of Semenyo Nyakokpa, U.S. Forest Service International Programs.

The established educational plant nursery can produce 2,500 tree seedlings annually, which will be planted in the community at houses, schools, markets, churches, roadsides, and farms practicing agroforestry. Any additional seedlings will be sold to customers from nearby villages. Additionally, the community hopes to use the nursery to raise awareness about forest conservation and sustainable forest management. Community members are welcome to visit the tree nursery and learn from the staff so that they can propagate saplings and care for them at home.

Climate change is a global crisis, and the protection of tropical forests is critical. Reforestation initiatives, like the one in Yamba, are vital for restoring critical forests, enhancing carbon sinks, and promoting biodiversity. By engaging local communities in reforestation efforts, such initiatives can also provide new income streams, promote sustainable land use practices, and strengthen community resilience against the effects of climate change. By fostering a culture of conservation and sustainability, communities like Yamba are paving the way for a more sustainable future.

Avocado seeds ready for planting. Photo Courtesy of Semenyo Nyakokpa, U.S. Forest Service International Programs.

The Conserving Critical Congo Basin Forests program (C3BF), funded by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES), aims to provide technical assistance for conserving Congo Basin forests, preventing deforestation, increasing forest cover, and promoting national afforestation and reforestation efforts. USFS will continue to support community and youth involvement in sustainable land management and broader climate change mitigation initiatives.

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