Trading Development for Nature Conservation Up the Congo

traditional next to less traditional
A local chief at the recent Lokandu ceremony to mark the beginning of road work.

When is it OK to “trade” development for conservation?  Whenever it works.   Which is whenever there is the will, the money and the organization for both.

What usually happens?  Development at the price of nature conservation.
What doesn’t work?  Conservation without development.

When does development work for conservation?  Development is immediate, but conservation is for the long haul.  Not easy to measure.  And the case I am going to describe below is a bit counter intuitive because we are now financing repair of the very same road where previously we decried road work as facilitating uncontrolled forest exploitation.  What is different now?

We are repairing an existing part of the road without extending it – that is different.  We are only repairing the road for easier bicycle and motorcycle traffic, not for four wheel traffic – that too is different.   But more important:  the road work comes “with a park”.  At the same time and in association with filling the holes and laying the narrow bridges there will be participative delimitation of a protected area destined to become a national park.

road work and proposed park
The area shown is the northern part of Maniema Province on the west side of the Lualaba River. The solid red lines are the roads that are being rehabilitated. Further west is the proposed national park.

All of this happens with lots of fanfare, public announcements and public acclaim.  Hopefully the hoop-la will help secure its success.  Below are some pictures of the beginning of the road work financed by DAI (Development Alternatives International).  DAI is also supporting the work involved in the participative delimitation of the protected area.

In March our TL2 dugout took the dignitaries from the provincial capital of Kindu up to Lokandu for the ceremony to mark the beginning of road work.

a chief with something to say
One of the gathered chiefs welcomes the provincial Minister of the Environment.

mama chefitaine opens the ceremony
Mama Chefitaine, Chief of the Bangengele, opens the ceremony.

Here is where the park will be
“And here is where the park will be”, the Provincial Minister of the Environment gesticulates.

we are in favor
“We are in favor”, the crowd cheers as the Administrator of the Territory queries them.

let the road work begin
“Let the road work begin.” The Minister of the Environment cuts the ribbon.

The unction is poured
The unction is poured; the work is blessed.

and carrying him along
John is hoisted up on the shoulders of the crowd. At least temporarily, he is the highway messiah.

Thanks to Guy Rondeau for the photos from Lokandu.


  1. Wilehlmina
    Posted 2010-04-27 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

    Congratulations John and Terry! Great photos–

  2. Terese Hart
    Posted 2010-05-07 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    Thanks go to Guy for the photos!!

  3. Basele Amin
    Posted 2012-03-09 at 2:11 am | Permalink

    Hi ,
    my name is Basele Amin am originally from Lokandu
    Now am living in kinshasa
    i saw the pictures and am very happy to know that this road and the lomami park will help to develop Lokandu and all the province of Maniema that’ s why i want to say thanks to all the people that makes it possible and also to God allmighty

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