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AWF Meets Partners to Discuss Conservation Challenges in Bili Uele

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The African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), accompanied by a delegation of partners and government authorities, this week visited artisanal mining hotspots in the Bas-Uele province of the Bili Uele landscape in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The delegation, led by AWF DRC Country Coordinator Antoine Tabu, comprised Madam Ruth Baduli (Acting Governor of Bas-Uele Province), Floribert Inga (Provincial Minister of the Environment), and Marcel Zuma (Chief of the Gaya chiefdom, where Artisanal Small Mining (ASM) is practiced in the Bili Uele Hunting Domain).

They met the Deputy General Director of the ICCN (Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature) and the European Union (EU) delegation represented by Filippo Saracco (Director of the Environment and Natural Resources Program), Patrick Bernard (Head of Environment and Sustainable Agriculture), and Daphne Barbotte (Political Advisor to the Commission).

“These meetings are part of AWF's approach to engage and support African leaders at all levels in their efforts to stabilize Africa's wildlife habitat, protect wildlife and wildlands, eliminate illegal wildlife trade, and ensure that Africa's development is inclusive and green," said Tabu.

The attendants discussed the willingness of local communities in the province to manage transhumance in a sustainable manner to promote peace and social cohesion. Community representatives expressed their desire to work with conservation partners such as AWF, government, and development partners to eliminate illegal grazing in the district.

“We do not want foreign herders to graze their herds in the protected area. That is why we are requesting financial support from the European Union, in order to create corridors to prepare pastures for them outside the protected area,” said Inga, Bas-Uele's Provincial Environment Minister.

The AWF’s approach to mitigating transhumance involves the creation of governance structures called Local Conservation and Development Committees and the Early Warning System to inform the ICCN HQ about the movements of herders in the protected area and the potential conflicts that their presence creates both for biodiversity and for local populations.

The delegation also addressed concerns about ASM in the Bili Uele Protected Area Complex (or DCBU), identifying it as a big threat to biodiversity in the region. One of the proposed solutions is the declassification of the area where ASM is practiced in the protected area and its compensation by an area outside the DCBU rich in biodiversity and of a similar size to maintain the integrity of the protected area.

Participants committed to joining efforts to find sustainable and non-conflictual solutions to the issues at hand. 

The European Union-funded Biodiversity and Fragile Ecosystems Conservation Support Program (ECOFAC6) has established a framework for collaboration and coordination with local populations and local governance structures to involve them in conserving natural resources in and around Bili Uele. As part of this support, AWF is working with government authorities and communities to enhance governance structures, mitigate poaching and illegal wildlife trade, and champion sustainable livelihoods for communities.