Wednesday, August 1, 2012

In Kundelungu National Park DRC again--what Beauty, but such a Troubled Country

Miombo Forest/Woodland and Masanza Falls on the Kundelungu High Plateau 

Over the last few months we've been working with the Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) in the development of a General Management Plan for two national parks in Katanga/DRC (Congo)--Upemba and Kundelungu (see previous three posts #1 and #2 and #3)--see also UNHCR MAP.  I'm now back in the DR-Congo to continue field data collection and ground-verification of mapping issues we're doing using remote sensing images (LANDSAT, ASTER) and other satellite imagery including Google Earth, and GPS-data collection.  

It is now getting toward the end of the dry-season--nights are cool to cold and the air is smoky from the thousands of fires that are rampant in the savanna woodlands and forest--part of an age-old practice of shifting (swidden) agriculture while some call it "slash-and-burn".  This form of agriculture works well under low population densities, but under modern demographic and technological pressures this practice is rapidly destroying ecosystems and wildlife habitats as well as destroying the very basis for future life in this country and contributing to Planetary destruction as well.

We're among those who try (sometimes I fear helplessly) to find ways to help people to learn how to coexist with nature in a more sustainable manner that preserves some of the more beautiful places for the next generation and beyond.  When I come to places like the Congo I'm always flooded with a mixture of emotions--from despair, to anger, to sorrow, and also hope--primarily when we meet some of the very good people who valiantly continue to live their lives in ways that is responsible, caring and thoughtful of their future and that of their kids...

In this post I share some photos from a trip in late July 2012--"up-country" to a small settlement (Lukafu--10°30'48.14"S and  27°32'47.70"E) in the bush just outside Kundelungu National Park where we carried out meetings over several days working with ICCN (the official national park service and conservation agency of DRC) on what to include in their new General Management Plan (see Upemba National Park Conservation Project).  We covered a wide array of issues from communication and community conservation to land use planning, wildlife research, and ecological monitoring--to name just a few areas of park management and conservation.  

We lived together in a small guest house facility run by a small Catholic Mission where we were treated with great kindness and warmth even though the accommodations, food, and services were RUSTIC--to say the least.  It was this experience and others like it that give me hope and a reason to continue in this often difficult and challenging work!  

At this point I can't go into a lot of detail of our work (that will come later when we share some of the maps and data systems we're building) but one thing I can say is that I still find it satisfying that an "old geographer can still hunt"--that my experience of a lifetime of working in places like this still has value to someone (I hope).  What I find most interesting is how technology has changed over my career.  When I first started this kind of work--back in the mid-1970s during the Sahel Drought in West Africa--it took me months and years to collect and map the data I can access today in a few days (with GPS, satellite imagery, and the Internet).  

But what never ceases to amaze me is that in spite of our new tools and toys, the problems largely remain the same and "people are still people" with all their faults and strengths.  I don't know if that is cause for optimism or despair!  What do you think?  Anyway, here are some photos from the first part of my trip here in DRC (more will come later) on work elsewhere and in the regional capital Lubumbashi.  Enjoy!

On the road to Lukafu in central Katanga along the western border of Kundelungu Plateau
Fires that are everywhere this time of year--preparing for next planting season and coming rains.

Lukafu Catholic Mission (hospital, schools, guest house, church, etc)

The Guest House where we stayed and worked
 Bertran (at flipchart) and Claudel (standing left) and Park Chief (Jobogo--seated right) debate an issue
The working group including some of the key sector leaders from the park
The next meal is caught and butchered!
The cooks prepare the greens for sauces for Fufu!
 Fufu being prepared (see also below)

Bob and Claudel relaxing in front of their guestroom quarters.

Do come back again!

Bob, from Lubumbashi, Katanga, DRC on August 1, 2012


  1. fantastic post and Thanks for sharing this info. It's very helpful.
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  2. Good day Robert,

    I will move in Lubumbashi with my family on September for few years. I really want to take time to explore the region and those magnificient national park, but I am worried about security in the bush in this country. Do you think we could visit and explore the parks with children safetly?

    I wonder as well, if the access to Kundelungu NP and Upemba NP is easy? Can we enter in the park like we can do in southern african national parks?

    I taken note of the Catholic guest house as overnight, do you may be know other plan?