Founded in 2009, Strong Roots is a community-based organization working at the nexus of conservation and sustainable development. We divide our efforts between communities who live on the borders of Protected Areas and those living at community forests.
Strong Roots was founded to address several issues:
Deforestation: Nearly 99% of fuel for households in the Eastern DRC comes from wood sources, placing a direct pressure on KBNP and community forests. We believe that improving energy and food security outside of the park protects ecosystems inside the park.
Poverty and Negative Perceptions of Conservation: Displaced by the erection of Kahuzi-Biega National Park (KBNP), indigenous peoples (Batwa or Pygmies), more than other communities, suffer the costs of this conservation model. In the Burhyini Community Forest, near the Itombwe Nature Reserve, decades of conflict have resulted in 58% households living in either poverty or extreme poverty. We believe that providing alternative sources of income not only improves well-being of communities, but also alleviates pressure on Great Ape habitat.
Great Ape Habitat Connectivity: The Grauer’s gorilla population decreased by 77% over the last 20 years. Without concentrated efforts to conserve gorilla habitat connectivity they are likely to go extinct by 2054 (three generations). Since the majority of Great Ape populations fall outside of government protected areas, we believe the best way to conserve the Grauer’s is to create a corridor of community-managed forests between Kahuzi-Biega and Itombwe.
Insecure Land Tenure: Prior to 2016, communities could not own their traditional lands for forest conservation. Strong Roots believes that if communities are to become true conservation actors and allies, they must first have secure access to their lands and have the right for their management and governance.
Lack of Environmental Education: Environmental education is absent from primary and secondary school curriculums. In order to train the next generation of conservation leaders, we believe we must engage young students in conservation initiatives.
Top down conservation models: The top-down approach that dominates conservation policy in DRC makes it a poor tool for conserving the rich biodiversity of many non-protected landscapes. We believe it is crucial to develop community conservation plans that build off traditional knowledge.