In order to mobilize the local people towards the protection of the Kahuzi-Biega National Park, despite the hardship due to the war in the great lakes region since 1990’s - the POPOF-I created many opportunities around the park through the following activities.
The POPOF-I recruited over 47 former poachers and trained them as wood carvers. The carvings have been sold in Japan, the USA and the UK, and the money collected came back to the carvers. This approach has helped reducing the frequency of poachers intrusion into the park.
Sewing and tailoring skill training:
More than 24 Batwa women, also former poachers, were trained as tailors in three different villages surrounding the gorilla habitat. Local and international tourists have purchased the clothes.
The POPOF-I aims to rehabilitate the deforested areas and this afforestation program started in 1997. The communities around the park are encouraged to grow trees in their fields, gardens and perimeters of their lands. The POPOF-I is growing agro-forestry trees in nurseries and distributing them to the people. Between 1997 and 2008, the POPOF-I distributed over 1.5 million young trees to the communities and now these trees are playing a role as buffer zone, which the KBNP didn't have at the time of its creation. Today, the mature trees can be harvested for fire wood, coal and building materials. Selling their wood enables them to feed and school their children. Cases of intrusion for wood into the park and consequent arrest by the park rangers have been reduced.
This program is aimed to increase the literacy not only among children but also among adults. A kindergarten, primary and secondary school have been established since 1999. Courses are given to adults, too. These schools will enable the new generation to manage their natural resources in harmony with the community development, while avoiding conflicts between the park and the community.
The anti-poaching activities carried out by employees of the POPOF-I have greatly increased the conservation of the natural resources of the KBNP and improved the socio and economic status of the communities.