The indigenous Bambuti traditionally lived as hunter-gatherers in the forests of DR Congo, which provided them with food and shelter, but creation of the Virunga National Park, home to the critically endangered mountain gorilla, resulted in their eviction. Families were left homeless and without land, and have since faced abject poverty, but the Gorilla Organization has been addressing the needs of these communities through a project that began in 2003.
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With fewer than 750 individuals remaining, the mountain gorilla is critically endangered. Creation of the Virunga National Park helped to reduce the decline in population numbers, but led to the eviction of indigenous Bambuti communities that lived in the forests. Plunged into extreme poverty, and with no homes or land, these communities were forced to rely on the forest for resources including food, water and medicines. Alongside local partner the African Indigenous and Minority Peoples' Organisation (AIMPO), the Gorilla Organization began working with the Bambuti in 2003, addressing their needs through agricultural training, educational support and health and social awareness. The aim of the project is for the communities to grow sufficient food to feed themselves and generate income, improve the literacy of adults, improve their socio-health conditions and raise awareness of their rights. This will, in turn, reduce their dependency on the gorilla forest. To date, 11 hectares of land have been purchased for the communities and 30 houses, three latrines and two shower blocks have been constructed. The communities have been learning and implementing basic farming techniques, growing a variety of crops including maize, soya and cassava, and generate income through the sale of surplus. Construction of a food store allows them to store any excess crops post-harvest, reducing spoilage and generating greater profit when crops are sold out of season. Rearing of goats, guinea pigs and rabbits is helping to reduce protein malnutrition. Children are supported through school and adults are taking part in literacy training sessions, improving education standards while also building the beneficiaries' confidence. A social worker has been raising awareness about hygiene and social issues, and construction of a health centre in mid-2007 has further contributed to the improved health and wellbeing of the Bambuti. Annual funding provides: - Agricultural inputs including tools and seeds - Teaching and healthcare costs - Capital equipment including a motorbike - Operating and HR costs including project salaries and rent
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