YANGAMBI - In the middle of Congo's tropical rainforest lies Yangambi, a nature reserve where scientists study climate change. To do so, they need an intact piece of forest. But that causes tensions with the local inhabitants, because they use the forest to survive.

There has been research in Yangambi since the 1930s. In the Belgian Congo era to agricultural crops, but for some years now to climate change. Because the jungle is an important buffer against global warming.

In the middle of the forest is a high-tech tower where researchers take measurements. "We want to do that in the long term," says UGent doctoral student Thomas Sibret. "Then this forest is surely meant to remain forest. But deforestation is a challenge here."

The Congolese farmers living around the tower need wood from the forest for cooking and also land to grow food. "We don't want to hand over the forest," says Paris Olendja. "Our daily life depends on it. Every year the population of our village increases. Where will our children live?"

Professor Wannes Hubeau of the Africa Museum does believe the research just might help. "With our data, we can estimate how valuable those forests are. Our research can put a price on forest conservation."

Farmers like Paris could then be compensated for taking care of the forest. But for now, most international climate funds remain dead letters and an uneasy tension lingers around Yangambi.

Carl Theunis

Carl Theunis is a Belgian reporter, cameraman and editor.
€5.000 allocated on 13/12/2021.


  • Yangambi: een klimaat van spanning, Canvas, Vranckx & De Nomaden, 25/11/2023.