Since 2006, the University of Maryland has been supporting the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) and other partners in conservation land use planning activities in the Maringa-Lopori-Wamba (MLW) Landscape, located in northern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The landscape was identified in 2002 by the Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP) as a priority area for conserving biological diversity, improving human livelihoods, and developing sustainable forestry practices. The MLW partnership was established with support from the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Central African Regional Program for the Environment (CARPE). The project aims to improve human well-being in the MLW landscape by providing economically and environmentally sustainable alternative livelihood strategies which minimize forest degradation and fragmentation. Central to achieving this goal is providing incentives for enhanced agroforestry and agricultural productivity on converted lands and developing a sustainable land-use plan for the management of the landscape.
UMD has been a key partner on this project, providing forest monitoring, mapping, spatial modeling and capacity building necessary for conservation prioritization and land use planning in the landscape. Specific activities have included identifying potential habitat refuges and wildlife corridors for terrestrial species such as the endangered and endemic bonobo (Pan paniscus), using decision support tools and developing optimization models to plan for future agricultural and human expansion while conserving key wildlife areas, providing GIS/GPS trainings to Congolese researchers in the field, and implementing on-the-ground participatory mapping activities with local communities for the formalization of land management rights in partnership with the DRC Government.