‘Batela zamba, tokobatela zamba, toloni nzete, tokobatela zamba’ – let’s protect our forests and plant trees – has become the new favourite song for children in Yangambi.
It is National Tree Day, an observance established in 1986 to commemorate the importance of trees for DRC’s economy, society and environment. A special day to remind all citizens that the country’s future is tied to the biodiversity and vitality of its forests.
Children and youth in Yangambi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), learn to protect the forest and take care of the environment at school. An innovative environmental education programme, 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.
‘Environmental education should be part of the standard curriculum,’ said Joelle Grandjean, who is responsible for the environmental education programme. ‘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.’
The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) has organised a dynamic workshop where the children learn to protect the forest and to take care of the environment. ‘I love doing this. Children have so much energy and they are so eager to learn,’ said Eric Basosila, one of the workshop facilitators and a recent graduate in sustainable forest management from DRC’s University of Kisangani (UNIKIS). ‘It gives me an opportunity to use what I learned in university to make a real change in communities,’ he added.
‘We have an environmental education team, formed by people who know the communities, forest experts and pedagogy specialists,’ explains Jules Mayaux, the activity leader. This programme is part of an ambitious endeavour 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.