Congo: Protecting the forest from an early age

“Batela zamba, tokobatela zamba, toloni nzete, tokobatela zamba” – let’s protect our forests and plant trees – has become new the favourite song for children in Yangambi.

©Axel Fassio/CIFOR

Children and youth in Yangambi, Democratic Republic of Congo, learn to protect the forest and take care of the environment at school. An innovative environmental education program, supported by the European Union through GCCA+, helps students in forest communities to understand the importance of using natural resources sustainably and encourages them to take action from young age. 

“Our environmental education program helps students understand how their actions affect the environment. It builds knowledge on the importance of using natural resources sustainably, and encourages them to adapt their practices, starting when they are children.”

- Jules Mayaux, the activity leader.

©Axel Fassio/CIFOR


“Environmental education should be part of the standard curriculum. From a young age, it is important for children to understand the relations between the forests and the livelihoods of their families and communities, and how to ensure that the generations to come can also benefit from all the resources that forests provide.”

- Joelle Grandjean, responsible for the environmental education program.

This year, Lusambila’s students had unusual guests. The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) has organized a special celebration, as part of its environmental education program in DRC.  Through a dynamic three-day workshop, the children learned to protect the forest and take care of the environment – a critical know-how for a community that lives right next to one of DRC’s most important forests, the Yangambi Biosphere Reserve.


©Axel Fassio/CIFOR

This program is part of an ambitious endeavor to transform the landscape of Yangambi – the Biosphere Reserve and its surroundings – into a place where forest conservation and scientific research contribute to improving the living conditions of the local populations. Financed by the European Union, the projects FORETS (Formation, Recherche, et Environnement dans la Tshopo) and YPS (Yangambi Pole Scientifique) have since 2017 created over 600 direct jobs, trained over 220 postgraduate students, restored around 300 hectares of land, and planted 300,000 trees, according to CIFOR.



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