A few weeks ago, members of our Invisible Children team in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), made the trip from our offices in Dungu to a remote community on the outskirts of DRC’s Garamba National Park. The community is part of our Early Warning Radio Network and the radio there, which allows them to report armed group activity to the network, needed a few routine repairs. Not ones to waste an opportunity, our team also took advantage of the trip to train a few new members of the Local Protection Committee there — a group of community volunteers who help manage and operate the local Early Warning radio.
“I am very happy to hear that you have come to repair the HF radio here. Even though there is some cell service here, the Early Warning Network is very important for security information because it served us for so long.” – Jean, Local Protection Committee Leader
After some introductions and a few pleasantries exchanged, our Early Warning Radio Technician, quickly set to work repairing the radio and sharing tips with the local operators on ways to help keep the radio in good condition.
Meanwhile, the rest of our team began training the new committee members on other aspects of using the radio, like participating in daily security calls with our team, and best practices for reporting armed group activity via the radio.
A portion of the training time was focused on how the Early Warning Radio Network can be used to help report and prevent poaching and wildlife trafficking in the area as part of its role in making local families safer from violence. This is especially important for communities near places like Garamba National Park, who are often targeted by violent groups involved in poaching and illegal wildlife trafficking in the area. This is a daily reality that we’ve seen play out in recent weeks as we’ve tracked a group of Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) fighters poaching elephants and carrying out attacks against local communities at the same time.
Members of this particular Local Protection Committee learned how using the Early Warning Radio Network to actively report signs of wildlife trafficking in and around their community to our team can provide those protecting wildlife in Garamba with information that can help them more effectively stop and prevent poaching in the area. Our team discussed with the committee how, as this makes local wildlife and their environment safer, it’s also helping to reduce threats against their own families and community making them all safer.
Today, this community, and dozens of others like it, are equipped with tools, like the local Early Warning radio, and the training they need to report violence committed against them and help prevent it in the future. Not only that, they’re also able to play a central and vital role in stopping the exploitation of the rare, and magnificent wildlife that they live among.
As brave members of this and other Local Protection Committees continue to report armed group and poaching activity, our team, other security and conservation actors, and most importantly, communities themselves are able to more effectively ensure that communities and the environment they rely upon are able to thrive together in safety.