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Mbou Mon Tour /

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Supported by the UK Government Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
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Mbou Mon Tour helps rainforest communities in the Democratic Republic of Congo make a sustainable living through agriculture and tourism. By supporting local people to manage their own land, the organisation creates better lives and protection for a precious natural resource.

 The NGO has helped communities in six villages win the status of ‘Forest Concessions of the Local Communities’ for their land. Now conservation efforts led by local people are protecting 50,000 hectares of forest – and the future of the endangered bonobo great ape, an animal of huge cultural importance to local communities.

An inclusive approach to conservation

50,000 hectares protected

Women play a leading role

"We are saving the money we used to spend on health care. Thanks to my savings, I now have six hectares of savannah. I plant cassava, corn and sweet potatoes there. I have a garden, and I feed myself and my children. Mbou Mon Tour gave me improved seeds, machetes and hoes to do the ploughing."

Adeline Ngamombele, president of Mbou Mon Tour women’s group

Mbou Mon Tour has also worked with communities to develop new, sustainable ways of earning a living – alternatives to slash-and-burn agriculture and other destructive practices. About 10,000 people benefit directly from the Mbou Mon Tour’s work, and their successful approach is also preserving and increasing natural forest cover in the Congo Basin, one of the world’s most important carbon sinks. 

The organisation was formed by local chiefs, notables and a group of academic cadres who came together in 1997 to stop deforestation linked to burn agriculture and the rarefaction of the fauna. They first obtained local community forestry concessions in 2017. This model is an alternative to creating nature reserves in threatened areas, which in other parts of the world commonly leads to conflict over land.  Mbou Mon Tour have succeeded where conservation agencies and governments have often failed, and are global pioneers in community-led forest management. 

New farming methods – and more power for women 

Mbou Mon Tour has supported a decisive move from forest to savannah farming, and the development of new commercial activities for local people. Most of the savannah farming is done by women and they are supported with training and literacy education, disease resistant seeds, tools, livestock and other resources. 

Income is shared equally throughout the six villages, supporting services such as maternity healthcare and transport to markets and schools. This shift has also improved the nutrition and health of the community. During the coronavirus pandemic, local people have been self-sufficient in food, while still protecting the forest. 

Adeline Ngamombele is president of the NGO’s women’s group. She says: “Several women like me have been trained by Mbou Mon Tour on literacy and crafts and learnt how to read and write. So we can also offer ideas to our chiefs and they can easily listen to us. For example, we advocated for the sanitation of our water source as our children often fell ill and a lot of money had to be spent on hospitalising the children. Mbou Mon Tour heard us and carried out the work.  

“We are saving the money we used to spend on health care. Thanks to my savings, I now have six hectares of savannah. I plant cassava, corn and sweet potatoes there. I have a garden, and I feed myself and my children. Mbou Mon Tour gave me improved seeds, machetes and hoes to do the ploughing.” 

Ecotourism offers a sustainable future 

Alternative income sources supported by Mbou Mon Tour include specialist ecotourism (particularly international primate researchers) centred on the region’s bonobo apes. Community members are trained and employed as bonobo trackers and forest patrol members and the profits from ecotourism are shared community-wide.

Education for local people of all ages – including talks, films, musical performances, and work in schools – helps them understand the importance of the apes and their role in the forest ecosystem. Community lobbying has also led to new laws against poaching. 

Forests and climate expert Marine Gauthier of the United Nations Development Programme says Mbou Mon Tour’s activities and approach are unique: “I have worked in the DRC since 2010 and I know no similar project, so anchored in the community and initiated by the community.” 

 

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