This story excerpt was translated from French. To read the original story in full, visit ICI Congo. You may also view the original story on the Rainforest Journalism Fund website here. Our website is available in English, Spanish, bahasa Indonesia, French, and Portuguese.
In eastern DR Congo, in the so-called northern part of the province of North Kivu (commonly called "Grand Nord"), in the vicinity of the city of Butembo, the rural communes and villages of the region, the natural forest cover has almost completely disappeared. However, the region has not become a natural grassy savanna. On the contrary, it has become a landscape where agricultural crops/pastoral farms and trees planted as alternatives to the natural forest coexist. And it seems that this reforestation is winning over agriculture and livestock in the region.
The peculiarity of these artificial forests surrounding the settlements is that they are dominated by only one kind of tree species: eucalyptus. The latter, which are exotic species, have been favored to the detriment of native species, and this, because of the major role that these trees have played in the socio-economic life of the environment. They are, in fact, the main source of wood energy used in households and in the small industry emerging in the region (wine making, bread making, soap making, etc.). Eucalyptus also plays an important role in the supply of timber. The medicinal virtues of eucalyptus as well as other cultural and environmental services it provides are not to be outdone.
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It is this multiplicity of recognized virtues of eucalyptus that leads us to ask the question: Do eucalyptus trees constitute an alternative for the natural forest in Kivu? This is what this investigation, supported by the Pulitzer Center through Congo Basin/Rainforest Journalism Fund as part of the "Reporting in Times of Crisis" project, will answer.