Five Congolese women have sacrificed spending Christmas with their families and travelled to Tilonia in India to take part in a unique initiative to save Africas endangered gorillas. The women, who have never before left DR Congo, have arrived in India to participate in a joint initiative between London based Gorilla Organization and Barefoot College, which will see them become experts in life saving Solar Technology.
Over the next six months the illiterate women, now fondly known as the Solar Sisters, will learn how to set up and maintain solar panels, which on returning to Africa will enable them to bring light and electricity to their remote Congolese villages. The villages are situated on the edge of the Virunga National Park in eastern DR Congo, home to some of the last surviving mountain gorillas. Poverty in the villages and the lack of development opportunities for local communities are threatening to destroy the surrounding forest and in turn threatening the already endangered gorilla population.
By introducing electricity, and therefore power and light, to their villages these women will be giving their communities the opportunity to develop small enterprises, grow more food, improve hygiene and extend educational opportunities. These developments will help the community to lift themselves out of poverty and in doing so reduce their dependency on the gorilla habitat, says Jillian Miller, director of the Gorilla Organization.
Light will enable people to work after dark and allow children to be educated in the evening. Power will also bring refrigeration and further technological opportunities to these impoverished villages. Promoting sustainable development and reducing poverty in local communities is one of the most successful methods used in environmental conservation today.
We are all excited by this programme. We would never have dreamed we would have been able to take part in something like this. I hope we will help many families and gorillas when we return to Congo next year. said Mrs Machozi Kahindo.
A recent census conducted by international NGOs revealed that the number of wild mountain gorillas has grown by 26.3% during the past seven years. Whilst the sub-species remains critically endangered conservationists are encouraged that development projects, like the Solar Sisters, are having a significant impact on the gorillas long- term future.
Please contact the Gorilla Organizations press office in London for further information, photographs or to arrange interviews.
Abi Girling Tel. 0207 916 4974 firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Gorilla Organization
The Gorilla Organization works internationally to save the worlds last remaining gorillas from extinction by supporting long-term economic development, education and conservation projects in the poor communities surrounding the gorilla habitat.
Formerly The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund Europe, the Gorilla Organization was inspired by Dian Fossey herself to raise funds to protect the endangered Mountain gorillas. Today the organisation works to ensure the survival of lowland gorillas as well as mountain gorillas with projects including gorilla protection; agricultural development; the Durban Process (long-term solution to illegal mining); conservation and education and combating loss of habitat. In 2009 the Gorilla Organization was one of 12 finalists in the World Challenge (www.theworldchallenge.co.uk ) and in 2002 won the BBC International Award for Outstanding Work in Conservation. www.gorillas.org