By Jenny Newenham 

From 311 November, we had the incredible opportunity to visit the Democratic Republic of Congo as part of a collaborative project funded by GIZ (German Agency for International Cooperation), focusing on Climate Resilience in Natural Resource Management (CRNRM). This project involves the  College (SAWC), ERAIFT (The Regional Post-Graduate Training School on Integrated Management of Tropical Forests and Lands) in DRC, and CAWM (College of African Wildlife Management) in Tanzania. The SAWC is actively contributing by sharing its Responsible Resource Use (RRU) short course, which the partner institutions will customize and implement. During our visit to the DRC, our primary objective was to assist in selecting immersion sites, which serve as field trip venues to illustrate RRU principles in practice. 

The RRU principles emphasize social, economic, and ecological sustainability to genuinely achieve responsible resource use. It is characterized by a holistic approach, ethical acceptability, contribution to resource regeneration, and inclusivity. Our exploration in the DRC included visits to coffee and cocoa research plantations in the Luki Biosphere Reserve, a local farmer’s coffee plantation, a honey cooperative, and the association of coastal fishermen, as well as a site linked to the historical slave trade. 

A personal highlight for me was navigating down the Congo River in a small motorboat, covering over 45km from Boma to the mouth of the river feeding into the Atlantic Ocean. This journey was part of the Marine Mangrove Park, designated as a Ramsar site. We discovered that the river is home to the threatened and understudied West African Manatee (Trichechus senegalensis). Unfortunately, we did not encounter any during our visit. Another memorable experience was meeting incredible fisherwomen who dive unaided into dark, murky waters to a depth of about 7m to collect shellfish. They dedicate two hours every morning to make numerous dives and gather clams that are later processed and sold in nearby markets. Our journey concluded with a delightful lunch featuring fresh food from the river at a local restaurant on the banks of the Congo.”

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