Ildefonse Bulembe Kalunga

Fishpond Project Leader

Ildefonse was born in 1983, in Kibangula in Maniema Province.

He studied agronomy in a secondary school in his hometown. When he finished, he stayed in his school as a teacher for 2 years. In 2006, he left for Kindu to continue his studies at the Faculty of Agronomy at Kindu University. After the general agronomy classes, he specialized in natural resource management.

Ildefonse at a demonstration fishpond

He started working in conservation during his university studies, as a supervisor of the ‘no-till farming’ project of Caritas, in Kailo Territory, Maniema Province. The purpose of the project was to reduce pressure on the forest by teaching sedentary as opposed to nomadic agriculture. In 2012, he was hired by CRONGD Maniema (Regional Council of Non-Governmental Organizations for Development) as a field supervisor for another agricultural project which included optimizing agriculture methods to produce the highest quantity and quality of crops on a given piece of land in order to reduce deforestation.

The first time he heard about the TL2 Project was at the Kindu University, when John Hart, Scientific Director at the time, was teaching a course on tropical ecosystems. In 2015 Ildefonse started to work for the project. He developed the fishpond project, as an alternative activity to hunting in the buffer zone of what was then still the Provincial Lomami Park.

His responsibilities in the project are planning, implementation, and monitoring of alternative activities in the villages around the park in Maniema Province. He and his assistant, Vison, spend most of their time in the villages, so the planning is actually based on the needs of communities. They maintain demonstration fishponds to supply newly dug household fishponds with fry. Ildefonse and Vison regularly visit the household fishponds and advise the owners, until they become completely independent of the demonstration fishponds.

In the future, Ildefonse hopes to expand the fishpond project to other regions in the vast buffer zone of the Lomami National Park as it is now limited to Maniema. Ildephonse is also interested in exploring other types of alternative activities to hunting and other practices that damage the fauna and flora. For example, he would like to work on sustainable agriculture methods with the local communities.

His favorite part of his work is raising awareness in community focus groups. This is the best way to understand what people want, the problems they face, and also to introduce new methods to them. He likes training people to make fishponds. Some villagers are truly interested in the work and follow his advice well. He recalls one of them who cultivated 6 baskets of Tilapia from one little fishpond, because he followed the suggested procedures. This was a real pleasure for Ildefonse.

Harvesting fishponds

His wife is an elementary school teacher. They have three sons and three daughters; the oldest is 14, and the youngest is 2 years old (as of 2019). They all live in Kindu. He spends a lot of time in the field, which was difficult at the beginning, but now they are all habituated.

Ildefonse is from a poor family.  His father only studied to the 5th grade level of elementary school. But he was brave, and left the village for the town of Lubumbashi to better support his family. He wanted to pay the education of his 5 sons and 4 daughters. Ildefonse was the third among them. His brothers and sisters, in spite of their father’s support, didn’t finish secondary school. They decided not to continue, because they didn’t believe that studying would lead them to a better life. Ildefonse lost his father in 2009, and later he lost two brothers as well. One of them left 7 children without a father, and it is Ildefonse’s responsibility to take care of them. He encourages everybody in the family to continue studying.