MCIV volunteer Henryka Manes escorted Ronhy-Daniel Botomba-Demagnale, Alain Lushimba Kabunda and Kassar Mizeguil Mahamat during their Miami visit as part of the U.S. State Department’s international-visitors program. They all work in the area of environmental conservation in their countries. They were interviewed by Nancy Ancrum, editorial page editor, about what they learned here.
Republic of Congo
I work in the fight against poaching and anti-trafficking. I work on behalf of the government. In the beginning, NGOs were in charge of the national parks and protected areas. Now that the government has taken charge of these areas, we have problems in terms of equipment, because we lack the materials.
We have elephants, gorillas, all the great mammals. We’re fighting against the illegal exploitation of trees. People cut them without authorization. The problem is that we don’t have the resources and material and equipment to fight against this, as well as poaching.
I have learned a lot in Miami. I’ve seen how the parks and reserves are well organized. I’ve seen the resources that are available for all the services — in the Everglades and Big Cypress. I saw the equipment that the field agents had available to them — vehicles and GPS. The reality is not the same where I am from, but I can appreciate what’s here.
We are hoping that we can find partners who are interested in conservation efforts as well. But we can’t do it without the social development of our people. We need partners to support the goals we are seeking.
Alain Lushimba Kabunda
Democratic Republic of Congo
I work for an NGO called the African Wildlife Foundation. The greatest challenge is the extreme poverty of the population and a significant dependence on natural resources. This increases the hunting of our natural resources for commercial purposes and subsistence.
We are trying to organize the population in specific zones so we can manage our natural resources properly. We do this by creating protected areas to protect our fauna and our flora, and we try to organize our forest areas to assist with rural development. In each forest area, we try to create ecological activities instead of hunting — sustainable agriculture, animal rearing. Another challenge is that politicians take advantage of people’s poverty and do things against conservation efforts. We’re trying to save the bonobo and forest elephants and Congolese peacocks.
In Miami, I’ve noticed that, at every level, public spaces are well organized, and it helps increase their revenue. People visit these places like the Everglades a lot. Miami seems to be an eco-conscious city. The green spaces are well kept, there is less air pollution.
Kassar Mizeguil Mahamat
I work in a park that is completely protected. We are fighting against the poaching of elephants, giraffes and buffalo. We have other activities such as illegal fishing, cutting of trees, illegal harvesting of honey. In the rainy season, the elephants migrate. We also monitor them. We are able to fight against poaching if we are able to catch these poachers when they enter the park, otherwise …
In Miami, I notice that our experiences are similar, but our resources are different. We also have the same technology — GPS, compasses, communication radio — but we just don’t carry firearms. We noticed the rangers in the Everglades had them on. They also had batons. It’s a dangerous job. We accepted the job and we will do it — it’s no problem. Also while we were visiting the sites, everything was calm, there was no trash, compared to our preserves in Chad where you find trash, and people set up illegal camps.