Organization name: AFRICAN WILDLIFE FOUNDATION (AWF)
*-Organization full street address (in your local format): 16, AV. LUKUSA Immeuble les Palmiers, Kinshasa/Gombe, Democratic Republic of Congo BP 2396
*-Organization full mailing address, if different:
*-Country: Democratic Republic of Congo
*-Work phone with country and area code: +243 812628204 / +243 (0) 8139-97586
*-Work fax with country and area code:
*-Main email: firstname.lastname@example.org
*-Organization Web site URL if any: www.awf.org
I have been a GIS Officer at the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) office in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) since 2009. I was trained at the University of Kinshasa, DRC in agricultural sciences and natural resources management. In my role, I have been managing all GIS activities for the AWF-DRC office as well as field assistants and trainees. My passion lies in the use of GIS and remote sensing as technological tools for helping to analyze and reduce environmental pressures, especially in the rainforest of the Congo Basin. In my work, I assist local communities with participatory mapping activities in order to move toward sustainable land use planning in the northern DRC region. The mapping activities help secure land management rights by the DRC Government, which is especially important for these communities as they lack land tenure security and have no capacity to map their land or engage in long-term land use planning. The work is extremely challenging, as it is field-based, but I am very passionate about the project’s goals and am committed to reinforcing my capacity in my role. I am confident that my application for this award is a logical view to strengthen my capacity in this fellowship training program and implement their knowledge in my work within the African Wildlife Foundation for protection of the environment and its sustainable socio-economic development
I learned GIS at the University of Kinshasa (in DRC) and quickly understood that GIS is a valuable tool to help make decisions,in particular to help communities understand their sense of responsibility for the rational use of natural resources. The work that I do in the landscape is important because it helps spread awareness to local people to join us to protect the environment. What motivates me more despite the difficulties, is that this work contributes to raise the socio-economic development of local populations while balancing sustainable use and teaching conservation of natural resources. It has taken some time and with many challenges to gain the trust of local populations to allow them to believe that we are trying to help them, but with time in raising awareness about the environment they now have better learned about the importance of the rational use of resources for the next generation.
After University, I joined African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) as Intern for 6 months in the DRC office, where I worked actively in the field to participate in a land use planning project in the Maringa-Lopori-Wamba Landscape, located in northern DRC. I eventually became the AWF-DRC GIS Officer in 2011 and have been managing participatory mapping activities with local populations to improve the sustainable management of land and natural resources in order to benefit the welfare of the local populations. As part of this job, I have been managing all GIS activities and GIS databases for the AWF-DRC office.
African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) is a nonprofit organization whose vision is to assist the people of Africa to sustainably manage natural resources and sensitive areas important for biodiversity. In the DRC, AWF presses the Congolese government to develop conservation strategies by creating new protected areas such as the Lomako-Yokokala Faunal Reserve (created by AWF in early 2000s) and the Iyondji Community Reserve for Bonobos (created by AWF and partners in 2011) and aims to help improve the living standards of local communities through the development of alternative livelihood programs, sustainable agriculture programs, land use planning and micro-zoning. In our project in Maringa-Lopori-Wamba Landscape, we believe that the approach of participatory mapping is one of the most effective tools to achieve sustainable land use planning to benefit the well-being of the local population.
At the African Wildlife Foundation, I am GIS Officer in the DRC office. Our office supports a large community-based land use planning project in the Maringa-Lopori-Wamba Landscape located in rural northern DRC. In my role, I use GIS to help make decisions about conservation and land use planning and I actively use it to help local communities map and secure their land use boundaries.
Specifically, in my role, I do the following:
Manage all GIS activities in Maringa Lopori Wamba landscape;
Travel often to conduct fieldwork in the landscape’s rainforest, which involves working with local communities on participatory mapping activities, collecting GPS data with the communities, and managing all data collected;
Train local facilitators in raising awareness on sustainable management of natural resources and conflict management related to natural resources;
Manage local field assistants and trainees on programming and planning the participatory mapping and land use planning activities (including where/which village to visit, when and how);
Teach the technique of leading both participatory mapping activities and meetings with local community organizations;
Teach field assistants and trainees about GPS data collection;
Help develop positive relationships with political and administrative authorities in the area and contribute effectively to a sectoral vision on the use of natural resources;
Answer requests for specific thematic maps of Maringa-Lopori-Wamba Landscape and share GIS data with collaborative partners;
In addition, I teach students at a local college, the Institute of Rural Development in Djolu (ISDR-Djolu), about participatory mapping and techniques of collecting GPS data.
I work in the landscape Maringa Lopori Wamba which is located in northern Democratic Republic of Congo. This area is part of the rainforest of the Congo Basin, the second largest rainforest in the world after the Amazon forest.
The forests where I conduct my work are rich in biodiversity, with rare and endemic species such as forest elephants, bonobos, and Congolese Peacocks to name a few. However, this area experiences high pressure due to anthropogenic activities, including the expansion of slash-and-burn agriculture, illegal and unsustainable hunting of bushmeat, soil erosion, and over-extraction of young trees for both fuelwood and construction of local houses. In these areas, it is necessary to work more closely with local communities to teach them about management and planning of natural resources and conservation of land use. As there is no land tenure in DRC, these communities do not own their own land, and have no long-term land use planning and management expertise. In addition, they lack expertise to conduct mapping studies.
African Wildlife Foundation thus helps these communities to map boundaries of their agricultural and forested areas and develop strategies that will increase their agricultural production by improving their farming practices. This helps communities increase food production without increasing deforestation.
At present, the mapping activities that have been conducted have been validated by the local communities and are also officially recognized at the political and administrative authorities of the government of the DRC. Formal recognition and acceptance of these boundaries will allow the communities to gain official management rights to their lands for the first time. This aspect is very important for these communities because they had no capacity to do this previously.
Today, the participatory mapping techniques that we have been teaching the communities will serve as techniques and tools for the communities to develop their own land use plans in the future.
As part of my role in my job and in this project, I have led the mapping activities for 45 villages in this region. Thus, 45 agricultural areas of these villages have been identified and mapped.
There are many challenges to my work. It is important to note that the fieldwork can be very difficult, because the landscape lacks significant infrastructure and many places are highly inaccessible without long days on motorcycles, small outboard boats, and walking by foot. To conduct my fieldwork, I wake up early, ride the motorbike to a village (sometimes for several hours), meet the area manager and group leader, meet the notables and leaders of custom land, and start the participatory mapping activities with the community. Oftentimes, I need to develop a social strategy the basic concepts of land use planning, mapping and conservation because most of the communities lack this knowledge. Then, I follow certain leaders of the community into their forest to collect GPS data that define for the first time the boundaries of active farmland in their village. This work sometimes takes a whole day, walking in the forest and then camping in the forest so that we can continue the next day. In the daytime, it is often very hot, and very cold at night. Sometimes, the forest is very wet (swamp forest) and we need to cross major rivers in order to continue our work. There is also often limited food. Sometimes we are able to camp in the village so that we can continue our work the next day.
For my job, I have to correctly and efficiently manage all GIS data and trainees, training them properly so that high quality data are collected. After the conclusion of many days of community mapping with a particular village, I return to the main office in Djolu and download all GPS data from several GPS units and put the data together accurately. If the data are collected erroneously, I have to return back to the village to collect new data. I also work to help strengthen the capacity of local facilitators to ensure the quality of the GPS data collected and ensure the validation of the final maps for the communities.
My work is done with passion because my family (parents, siblings, wife and children) remain in the capital of Kinshasa while I conduct this work very far away from them. Normally, I am away in the field for three months (the office is based in the remote village of Djolu) with no means of communication.
I share my GIS ideas often with friends and colleagues. I also receive help from Janet Nackoney at the University of Maryland, who has been collaborating with my project for many years, to support me with technical questions and coaching to advance my work.