Ituri, Democratic Republic of Congo-DRC (November 10, 2021) --The Ituri Forest in Eastern DRC, anchored by the vast Okapi Wildlife Reserve, is home to a wildly diverse range of animals including okapi, forest elephants, 17 species of primates, leopards, bongo antelope and a variety of birds and insects. Its forests face increasing pressure of deforestation from, among other factors, shifting cultivation agriculture both outside and inside the reserve and a growing human population. The area shows great potential to sustainably develop cocoa farming as a source of local revenue for communities living in the periphery of the Okapi Wildlife Reserve, but it is critical to ensure this does not further degrade or damage primary forests.
Today, partners launched the Positioning Shade-Grown Cocoa to Improve Conservation and Rural Livelihoods project to protect a critical piece of the world’s second-largest rainforest from deforestation due to cocoa agriculture. The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Rikolto, and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) are partnering with United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation to sustain human communities in Eastern DRC and the ecosystems they rely on.
The goal of the project is to create economic opportunities that provide sufficient income for farmers without loss of primary forests.