By Cynthia Walley
The Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, has donated US$100 000 to conservation in Odzala-Kokoua National Park which will be used for the construction of a 27 kilometre road to connect the Number 2 Highway with the new Odzala-Kokoua National Park eastern sector base, extending on to the Mambili River.
This ground-breaking Chinese initiative is the first collaboration of its kind with Odzala-Kokoua National Park, and in the Congo, and has been welcomed by the Republic of Congo Minister of Forest Economy and Sustainable Development, Henri Djombo, the European Union Ambassador to Congo, Saskia De Lang, and Odzala’s park manager, Erik Mararv.
The new road will enable the Odzala park team and eco-guard units to more efficiently manage and protect the core of the park from illegal ivory poachers and eliminate the illegal trade in ivory. It will also enable Odzala to better engage with communities in the northern and eastern sectors of the park and implement planned social development projects. These projects include the establishment of a community-owned campsite in the area, education and health programmes, as well as the development of alternative livelihoods (to poaching) for local residents.
The funding agreement was concluded by Ambassador Guan Jian, on behalf of the People’s Republic of China, and Odzala-Kokoua Park Manager, Erik Mararv. In addition, both parties agreed to further discussions on co-operative measures to benefit the management and conservation of the park.
”We are pleased about the funding from the People’s Republic of Congo, a testimony to the friendship between our two countries,” said the Minister of Forest Economy and Sustainable Development in the Republic of Congo, Henri Djombo.
”It is, without doubt, a very important contribution by the Chinese Government to the sustained management of biodiversity in Odzala-Kokoua National Park, the jewel in the country’s conservation crown. The challenges of recurring poaching in Odzala, as well as other protected areas of the Congo, are compounded by the low response capacity to incidents due to the remoteness of the sites where they occur.
“The construction of the 27 kilometre road will however facilitate the mobility of patrols, of conservation research and monitoring teams, as well as logistics to the northeast and southwest of the park. The road will, in effect, strengthen surveillance and anti-poaching operations to the benefit of our wildlife and its habitat.
“We thank the Government of the People’s Republic of China for this initial commitment, a demonstration of their intent to contribute to the preservation of the eco systems in the Congo Basin, and we hope it will lead to other such gestures,” he concluded.
“This financial contribution to support the conservation of the 13,500 km² of rain forest that makes up Odzala-Kokoua National Park translates into a real international commitment by the Chinese Government to protect the environment and promote sustainable development in Africa,” commented Ambassador Guan Jian.
“The European Union Delegation in Brazzaville welcomes this new involvement of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the future of Odzala-Kokoua National Park,” said the European Ambassador to the Republic of Congo, Saskia De Lang.
“This support is of great interest as the park management team announced its commitment to deploy new activities in the eastern sector eight months ago. The US$100 000 donation will accelerate this transfer of activities and improve the logistical aspect of them. As the major donor to the park, the European Union Delegation in Brazzaville was consulted by the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China prior to its donation about the (details of) the existing contract between the European Union and Odzala-Kokoua National Park,” she elaborated.
“This funding is a testimony to the commitment and support by the People’s Republic of China in ensuring that this iconic national park and its wildlife provide sustainable benefits to the Congolese people over the long term. We are very appreciative of their conservation interest in and financial support for Odzala. In collaboration terms, but it is a big step forward for conservation in the Congo,” said Odzala-Kokoua Park Manager, Erik Mararv.