Why Congo’s most famous national park is betting big on crypto

That is why the park is a vital source of coal, or Makala in Swahili, and for food — although farming, fishing, hunting, and logging are all illegal. Park resources are being stripped regularly: between 2001 and 2020, Virunga lost nearly 10% of its tree cover, and De Merode estimates that $170 million in Virunga trees and ivory is lost annually. But the alternative for the local population is not being able to pay the salaries of the local warlords or starving. These are the ideal conditions for corruption.

“The Congo is a confusing place to make moral judgments.”

Congo is baffling Place to make moral judgments.” Adam Hochschildauthor King Leopold’s ghostwhich is dating the Belgian monarch shocking rule of the nineteenth century. The Congo is further complicated by its “immense vastness, people speaking hundreds of languages, and colonization carried out with the aim of extracting wealth,” he says. “Under these circumstances, it is very difficult to have a just and equitable society.”

Congo has it Almost as many displaced People like Ukraine, decades of conflict though decades United Nations peacekeeping. Most of the profits stolen from the park go to armed rebel groups, which some locals join for lack of better options. Some are relics of past wars, in particular Genocide in Rwanda in 1994. Others may be linked to Islamic country. The largest is M23, a Tutsi-led group Well armed That the United Nations says that Rwanda supports it. (Rwanda denies this, but its economy relies heavily on Congolese resources.)

As a result, Virunga may be the only UNESCO site that regularly buries its staff: More than 200 Rangers have been killed since 1996, an average of one per month. Cherubin Nolayambaje, who spent eight years as a bouncer, calls it “the most dangerous job in the world”.

Rangers in Virgonga National Park
More than 200 park rangers have been killed since 1996, at a rate of one per month. Here, rangers on patrol in the early morning search for animal traps, illegal hunting activity, and logging.

Brent Stirton / Getty Images

The 800 Virunga rangers, including about 35 women, often encounter armed rebels in the park and civilians illegally farming or living there. Samson Roquera, an activist in the nearby town of Rutshuru, adds that many locals don’t even know the park’s boundaries. While conservation requires community involvement to solve problems, he says, “we’re in unsafe areas, and that probably means rangers I can not Be in dialogue.

De Merode sympathizes with the community’s complaints that individuals are denied access to the park’s vast wealth. “Hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of people are suffering from what we hope will be the short-term cost of turning this park into a positive asset. If we fail to do so, we are doing more harm than good.” “But we believe so passionately that this ecosystem, this garden, can be turned around.”

His plan to do this hinges on the three water stations the park has opened since 2013, in Matebe, Mutwanga and Lovero; The fourth is under construction. The theory goes that if you could power your home, you wouldn’t need to cut down trees to cook. Electricity supports new jobs and businesses, such as coffee factories and chia seed production. And of course the bitcoin miner.

“This is a misconception we so much want to correct: that Virunga is only about wildlife,” de Merode continues. No, it’s about society via Wildlife. Our role is to try to facilitate that.” There is no way to practice conservation in one of the world’s most volatile countries without local support, he says.

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