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On 25 November 2016, “visionary conservationist” Praveen Moman, Founder of Volcanoes Safaris, delivered the keynote speech at the Congo Basin Forest Partnership’s 16th Meeting of Parties in Kigali, Rwanda.
View all images of the 16th Meeting of @cbfp_pfbc Parties https://t.co/WZHo46mwJP pic.twitter.com/phEDOdG7aQ
— CBFP-PFBC (@cbfp_pfbc) December 9, 2016
In his speech, Praveen discussed “The challenge of conservation travel in the Congo Basin” and most importantly, proposed a practical plan of action for protecting ‘the forgotten forests’ of the Congo Basin. A summary of his speech is below.
The Congo Basin is one of the world’s largest and most biodiverse and unexploited wildernesses. Its 251 million hectares of forest ecosystems span much of Central Africa, from the Atlantic Ocean's Gulf of Guinea to the mountains of the Albertine Rift in the east. They constitute the world’s second largest area of contiguous moist tropical forest and represent approximately one fifth of the world's remaining closed canopy tropical forest.
The Congo Basin forests play a critical role for global biodiversity conservation (they are home to three of the world's four species of great apes). They also provide vital regional and global ecological services as carbon sink and catchment basin.
The Congo Basin’s potential is enormous, but the challenges are huge. It is a forgotten zone, a huge black hole in the middle of Africa, that few can get to and few want to visit because of the challenges.
“The forgotten forests of the Congo Basin need to be connected with the world or we risk them disappearing within a few decades. Without this, the only economic activity left will be subsistence agriculture, mining, logging and trade in bushmeat.”
Volcanoes Safaris has created a great ape ecotourism model around our lodges in Rwanda and Uganda to share the fantastic great ape experiences and the culture of the local people with our guests, and to share the benefits of tourism with communities and support conservation. Other companies have set up their own ecotourism models and many countries have also created successful adventure or conservation travel models.
Let's look at Rwanda, a small country, bordering the huge Congo Basin. Volcanoes Safaris was the first international tourism company to set up here 16 years ago. Since we opened Virunga Lodge, there has been a dramatic transformation. In 2000 the country had just started functioning. Today there is excellent security, good roads, airport infrastructure, better governance, tourism policies, development of adventure and conservation tourism products, marketing and PR. Pro-private sector policies are being actively pursued. There are many other examples globally of how tourism can lead the way in developing economies.
The first step in connecting the Congo Basin with the rest of the world is setting up a Tourism Action Group, whose remit will be to address such issues as:
Over the longer term, we should plan to:
"The Congo Basin needs to join the global market place - let’s be competitive."
Romantic ideas about protecting the wilderness will not stop the oil installations, the trucks of miners, the loggers or the oil exploration in this modern day.
We will need to be less romantic and make conservation pay. It has to be part of the economic mainstream and become a business if are to have any hope of saving the Congo Basin forests and its Great Apes.
Conservation must be like a 'mine' that produces an economic return. Linked to sensitive tourism it is also the only way to create wealth, put bread on the table for communities and give the children of Africa a better future.
Click here to view "The challenge of conservation travel in the Congo Basin" keynote speech presented by Praveen at the Congo Basin Forest Partnership’s 16th Meeting of Parties in Kigali, Rwanda, November 2016.
Praveen Moman, Founder, Volcanoes Safaris and member of the Congo Basin Forest Partnership.
The Congo Basin Forest Partnership was originally set up by US Secretary of State Colin Powell in 2002 to bring together a multi-stakeholder group to help create economic development in the huge area of the Congo Basin.
The Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP) brings together some 85 partners, including African countries, donor agencies and governments, international organizations, NGOs, scientific institutions and the private sector, working to coordinate efforts to sustain forest resources in the Congo Basin.
The US State Department handed over facilitation of the CBFP to the European Union earlier this year.
In 2013 the State Department recognized Praveen as a leading expert on ecotourism in the Albertine Rift and Congo Basin by inviting him to join the CBFP.
For more information on the Congo Basin Forest Partnership, visit the CBFP web site.
To keep uptodate with the development of the Congo Basin Action Plan, Like the CBFP Facebook page and follow CBFP on Twitter.
Tracking chimpanzees in their natural habitat, as they swing from the branches in the canopy high above the forest floor is nothing short of exhilarating. The chimps effortlessly cross and scamper through the trees above the gorge, and visitors on the other hand must cross the river using natural bridges in order to keep up with the chimps. So although the walk usually lasts only 2–3 hours, descending the steep gorge and crossing the log bridges over the river requires some agility and fitness.
Chimpanzee tracking is also available in nearby Kalinzu, a forest reserve 30 minutes drive from Kyambura Gorge Lodge where there is a community of about 40 habituated chimpanzees.