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DemocraticRepublic of the Congo

This project addresses the multi-faceted, interrelated problems of poverty, conflictand environmental degradation within the Virunga region, Great Rift Valley, sharedby the DRC, Rwanda and Uganda. Most notably, this area includes the Virunga andBwindi forests, home to the highly endangered mountain gorilla. However, this areais also located in the center of a major conflict zone where millions of peoplehave lost their lives in conflict and many millions remain impoverished. CARE, inpartnership with the International Gorilla Conservation Programme, is implementinga five-year project with funding of $9 million provided by HGBF that will increasethe livelihood opportunities of the local populations. EEEGL initiative focuseson four areas: enterprise activities, participatory natural resources management,community empowerment and transboundary collaboration.

There are several long-standing causes of the conflict in the Virunga region, butat the heart of this struggle is control over valuable natural resources. This isa densely populated, mountainous region where local populations are highly dependentupon agriculture. The ultimate goal is to achieve substantial reductions in povertyand enhance environmental conservation. This project was implemented when Rwandawas achieving stability and elections had concluded in the DRC.

Enterprise activities include micro-finance and income-generating activities basedon sustainable principles. Ecotourism-based enterprises, primarily related to themountain gorillas in the Virunga Forest will provide community benefits and supportconservation efforts. Participatory natural resource management is promoted througha community based process where both responsibilities and profits are shared. Communityempowerment is achieved by strengthening community organizations and by includingand protecting vulnerable groups. Investments in the communities will enhance thesupport for mountain gorilla conservation. Transboundary collaboration is promotedby sharing information, taking regional action, and assuring effective coordinationwithin and outside protected areas.

The project builds self-sufficiency within communities deeply affected by the warand economic deterioration in the region, particularly in Eastern DRC; DRC is oneof the world’s forgotten disaster zones. While Rwanda and Uganda both receive donorassistance, DRC has one of the lowest levels of donor support in the world.

Current Status of EEGL:

Rwanda– EEEGL is building on established CARE programs in the country. The followingprograms and activities are at various stages of implementation: village savingsand loans, microfinance, adult literacy, basic rights awareness, new water and sanitationprojects, women’s rights advocacy, and awareness of gender-based violence. Gorillabased tourism generates income from permits and park fees that is shared with thecommunity.

Uganda– EEEGL is concentrating on rights and livelihood, peace building, governanceand social protection for vulnerable groups. Preliminary business development includeshoney production, handcrafts sales, passion fruit harvesting and support to beanfarmers. VSLA’s are being established; rights and equity are being addressed. Aprotected area program includes the components of participatory forestry managementand natural resource management.

DRC– Internal conflict has given rise to security concerns and has hindered EEEGLprogress. DRC has not progressed as far as Rwanda and Uganda in the implementationprocess. In September of 2008 project activities were suspended. CARE, IGCP andHGBF are working on a revised strategy.