As my awesome cousin Sebbi pointed out yesterday, despite all the posts I have not really explained what we are doing here. Or better, what Melaine is doing here.
Well, he was hired as the “Chef de Projet” or simply Project Manager by the Woods Hole Research Institute that (as far as I am understanding it : ) is implementing a UN project called REDD+. Ok, so first off REDD stand for "Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation" So in very short: He is supposed to protect the forest in a region of the DRC called Equateur (in the north West of the country, a state as big as the country of France).
The DRC has the second largest rain forest in the world, and we all have an interest that it stays this way, because… studies have shown that “combined contribution of deforestation, forest degradation and peatland emissions accounts for about 15% of greenhouse gas emissions, about the same as the transportation sector” (Wiki).
If we think back on our biology classes in 5th grade that makes a lot of sense. Trees need CO2 to grow, and in this process actually convert CO2 into oxygen, vital for life on this planet. So when we cut down a tree he obviously will stop producing oxygen for us, and most likely will be burned as a source of energy, also admitting more CO2. So to mitigate climate change we all have an interest in have the forest alive… and it’s also pretty awesome to walk through : )
There is an additional Problem though. It is mostly poor people that cut down the forest in the DRC, and not just for fun, but for the need to survive. Poverty is prevalent here, especially in the Equateur region where 93% live on less than $1.25 a day. The people here need the fire wood for basic things like cooking. Melaine and I face the same issue, as the city of Mbandaka (with estimated 200,000-1 million people) does not have electricity (or water). What to do when you want to cook a meal? You go get wood that is abundant in the region. Every day women (and often also children) go into the near forest to collect the wood to prepare food.
That’s why the UN (in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)) came up with REDD+. “REDD-plus calls for activities with serious implications directed towards the local communities, indigenous people and forests which relate to reducing emission from deforestation and forest degradation.”
So Melaine has to protect the forest, but should also help the people. If you ask him what he is doing here: “move mountains.” No easy task, that’s for sure. Fingers crossed.
I pretty much came along with/for Melaine, but feel quite fortunate that the WHRC lets me help a bit as a “volunteer2. Ultimately I’d love to work on my own project (even though I love sharing my opinion on the REDD+ project : ), but I have to conquer the French language first, and really also Lingala, as 80% of people only speak this local language in Mbandaka. Rossetta Stone is therefore my best friend – this week while I have electricity. On Friday we are flying back to Mbandaka and I have to find a solution to my 1 ½ Toschiba battery life… again, fingers crossed : )