In the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo lies a province called North Kivu (commonly known as the "Grand Nord"). Here, around the towns, rural communes, and villages of Butembo, natural forest cover has almost completely disappeared. Yet, the region has not transformed into a grassy savannah. On the contrary, it has become a landscape where agricultural crops and pastoral farms coexist and new trees have been planted to take the place of the previous primary forest. This kind of reforestation is gaining ground on land occupied by agriculture and livestock throughout the region.
The peculiarity of these artificial forests surrounding settlements is that they are dominated by a single genus of tree species: the Eucalyptus. These exotic species have been favored to the detriment of native species because of the major role that these trees have played in the socioeconomic dynamics of the region. Eucalyptus constitutes, in fact, the main source of wood-energy used in households and in the emerging small-scale production industries in the region (wine-, bread-, and soap-making, etc.). Eucalyptus trees also contribute to the supply of lumber. Further, the species has medical uses and renders other cultural and environmental services.
This multiplicity of so-called virtues of the Eucalyptus tree prompts us to ask, "Can Eucalyptus trees serve as a real alternative to primary forest in North Kivu?"