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