As an example of the problems that our people must contend with in preserving the natural environment, some time ago, near Virunga park, indigenous people were barred from logging firewood to preserve our so-called ”international” heritage. Because of this, the price per bag of firewood has shot up, from US$5 to $20, in a country where the average salary per capita is about a dollar a day. Think about it.
I am far from opposed to preserving our ecosystem. At the same time, I would suggest that before national authorities–in keeping with the international community–make these decisions, that they take into account the effects they can have on local people. For example, it might have been a good idea to construct a hydroelectric dam and provide nearly free electricity to the indigenous people. That could have been a more positive way of helping this poor population to develop.
Japhet Mbali Saga
Democratic Republic of Congo
©OECD Observer No 255, May 2006