Mbou Mon Tour
Synchronicity Earth has supported Mbou Mon Tour (MMT) since 2016 for its agroecology work, which means, they support viable food systems, promote economic wellbeing and human rights of small farmers and their communities, and mitigate climate change through low input agriculture featuring sustainable soil and water use.
In many parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) bonobos (listed as Endangered on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species) are hunted commercially for the bushmeat trade as well as for subsistence. However, in Nkala (Mai Ndombe) and surrounding villages – towards the Western edge of the bonobos’ range – the Batéké have a longstanding taboo on eating bonobos. They believe that the bonobo was first a human who failed to repay a debt and escaped to the forest to avoid being enslaved. However, as other ethnic groups and logging companies have moved into the area, this taboo has become degraded and hunting (as well as slash and burn agriculture) now threaten bonobos and other wildlife.
In a bid to protect the bonobos and their forest-savanna home, a local chief, Jean Christophe Bokika Ngawolo established a small community organisation “Mbou Mon Tour” (MMT) in 1997. Over the last twenty years Jean Christophe and his team have established a successful education and awareness raising programme in local villages to revive the bushmeat taboo and protect bonobos. Local communities are fully committed to and engaged in MMT’s conservation work – seeing themselves as part of this grassroots movement to protect their environment. Many conduct their work on a completely voluntary basis. In 2001 MMT began working with communities to establish a network of community protected forest areas in the region to protect bonobos and other wildlife. Six villages have now allocated parts of their land for bonobo conservation and the area under protection is still expanding. Community trackers – many of whom are volunteers – work long hours to protect and research the bonobos and help us understand more about their behaviour and conservation needs. Whilst communities unofficially protect these forests, the government has been supportive and a process is now underway to get the forests recognised officially as community protected forests under Article 22 of the Congolese Forest Code. In 2016, MMT hosted its first ecotourists to the site and this year it is establishing an agroecology programme. Both activities are part of efforts to improve not only the wellbeing of bonobos, but also that of local communities in isolated areas with high economic poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition.
In essence, Mbou Mon Tour is a movement of villagers that has successfully established a holistic conservation programme to protect Endangered bonobos and other wildlife in a unique forest-savanna landscape in Mai Ndombe, Democratic Republic of Congo, whilst at the same time improving the wellbeing of local communities.