Our combined professional lives have equipped us with unique points-of-reference, credibility, competencies and broad experience that will make us a formidable force both in Itombwe Conservation and local Community Development efforts. We passionately believe that both Environmental/Wildlife Conservation and Community must be enjoined in a symbiotic relationship, if enduring success in saving, protecting and renewing the overall Itombwe ecosystem is to be achieved.
We do not come to this mission as outsiders with the intent of imposing our will upon the local people. Rather, we approach the overall goal of Conservation of the Greater Itombwe Massif as people on the inside - believing that all people and communities within and across the surrounding area must be part of, if not the foundation for building and developing a longterm and enduring model of Community Conservation. The gorillas, chimpanzees (all species of wildlife), the trees and forests, the rivers and streams, the very air that sweeps across the Itombwe mountains and valleys... all belong to the local people, families and communities. This is the Democratic Republic of Congo. This is the Itombwe. This is the starting point for all of our efforts.
We are intimately acquainted with the many challenges that are part of life in the DRC. We were born, grew up and lived through many of these chapters over many years. We have deep roots across these mountains, we are connected and we are reconnecting with friends and families, groups and communities across the Itombwe. These are our people with whom we have shared years of life's journey through shifts, changes, challenges and celebrations. So many tears of joy and heartrending sorrow; so many memories; so many chapters - and yet our story continues...
We approach this dream with great humility and with great confidence. We believe that it is crucial to effectively partner with any and all stakeholders and conservation entities that share our vision for securing and saving the Itombwe. We are well connected on the ground through formal and informal relationships that span nearly 60 years. Conservatively, literally tens of thousands of people across this area have benefited directly from programs, schools, medical centers, churches that were all a part of our lives of service. Key leadership and influence from all parts of the Congo, at nearly every level of society, trace some degree of connection and/or success to the names represented on our Founding Board.
Our cross-cultural and inter-tribal understanding runs deep. Our linguistic capacity includes: Kibembe, Kinyamulenge, Kiswahili, French, Kinyarwanda, Kirundi, Arabic, Spanish and English. We have extensive knowledge and proven experience in African wildlife conservation and have initiated successful programs of engaging community ownership in protecting wildlife and the environment.
We are confident in our ability to identify and secure the necessary funding and other resources. We truly believe that the gorillas, chimpanzees, indigenous wildlife and forests of the Itombwe are nearing a critical "Point-of-No-Return" and must urgently be saved and protected. We know that without real Vision, without Hope and the possibility of Tangible Benefit for the local people and communities within and surrounding the Greater Itombwe Massif, there is even now a count-down to complete failure. Dare we consider that all of the resources that have been poured into saving the Itombwe have been expended for naught. For this reason, we have declared our desire to engage with all and any others to achieve an outcome that mutually benefits both Community and Conservation; that establishes a symbiotic enduring relationship between both; that transforms and preserves a vibrant and thriving ecosystem.
Itombwe Conservation, Inc. is a NEW venture in the world of wildlife/environmental conservation. We are just getting started. The primary focus of our efforts and initiatives will be specific to the Greater Itombwe Massif of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
This is a dream that is born out of the combined personal stories of two families deeply connected to the Itombwe and Eastern Congo. One family traces their ancestry and indigenous roots directly from the forests and mountains, and the plateau of the Itombwe. The other family arrived over 50 years ago as American missionaries serving in the region of Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Two generations from each family are now joining together (having been longtime friends for most of their adult lives) to declare "A Promise of Conservation and Community Development across the Greater Itombwe Massif.”
FOUNDING BOARD OF ITOMBWE CONSERVATION, INC.
Laurent Bujambi, Gerald Bates, Marlene Bates, Esther Bujambi, Isaac Bujambi, David Bates
"Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." - Howard Thurman