Alphonse Muhindo Valivambene, General Secretary of the Congolese environmental network Réseau pour la Conservation et la Réhabilitation des Écosystèmes Forestiers (Réseau CREF) was recently awarded the Alexander Soros Annual Award for Activism for risking his life to protect the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) Virunga National Park.
Réseau CREF is a non-profit organisation that was established in 2003; it is a network made up of 29 member organisations from across the DRC’s eastern province of North Kivu that focuses on promoting the sustainable management and rehabilitation of forest ecosystems. Well Grounded has worked with them since 2010, supporting them to strengthen their internal governance and management systems and to develop an innovative funding model that will allow them to decrease their dependence on external donors.
Initially, Well Grounded carried out a participatory organisational review of Réseau CREF to highlight their strengths and challenges, as a way of supporting the membership to work together more strategically and effectively. More recently, Well Grounded has supported the network to develop a business plan that lays out a long-term strategy to diversify their funding base in order to be more self-sufficient. One aspect of this business plan is to purchase land and build a ‘Environmental Education Green House’ that will offer a fully equipped conference space that can be rented out; profit from this business will then be reinvested into the work of the network. Réseau CREF has already purchased the land, and upon receiving the Alexander Soros Award, Valivambene confirmed that the award money will be invested in the ‘Green House’ project. The Provincial Ministry of Environment, represented by the provincial Governor of North Kivu, officially launched construction of the building on November 28th 2015 in Goma.
Well Grounded extends its warmest respect and congratulations to Valivambene for his ongoing environmental activism, despite the high personal and professional risks, and to the entire Réseau CREF Secretariat, governance committees, members, and partners for their ongoing commitment to protecting forest ecosystems in eastern DRC.