Djolu Technical College for Conservation & Rural Development
(Institut Superieur de Developpement Rurale-ISDR)
Education is vital to ensure that the Congolese people can successfully manage their abundant natural resources. During the creation of the Kokolopori Bonobo Reserve, BCI and local partner Vie Sauvage worked with regional authorities to establish Djolu Technical College (Institut Superieur de Developpement Rurale, or ISDR-Djolu) the only institute of higher learning within a 100,000 square kilometer (40,000 square mile) area in the heart of the bonobo habitat. Djolu Technical College offers young people in the region the chance to learn skills in conservation management, sustainable agriculture, and micro-enterprise development. Due to the diligent work of the college’s students, faculty, and administrators, Djolu Technical College was granted accreditation from the Congolese national government in August 2012. This accomplishment is not only a testament to the dedication of the college’s stakeholders, it is also proof of the limitless potential of the next generation of Congolese leaders.
Djolu is located in the Tshuapa region of the Equateur Province, the least developed and most heavily forested province in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Djolu is the perfect location for a rural development college. The biologically rich lands of the region are in danger of unsustainable exploitation, and the relative proximity to Kisangani (480 kilometers, or 300 miles, to the east) enables Djolu to hire instructors from Kisangani colleges and universities.
The dedicated administration and faculty provide the students with many educational opportunities, including regular courses in Environmental Management, Sustainable Agriculture, Community Development, and more. In addition to coursework, students participate in a number of projects and studies. ISDR-Djolu helped a regional agricultural cooperative, CAPEC, provide local farmers with mosaic disease-resistant cassava in a project partly funded by BCI. Cassava, a starchy root vegetable, is a staple of the Congolese diet and villagers depend on a good crop. In Kokolopori, ISDR-Djolu agronomists provided farming cooperatives with training, equipment, and seedlings in a project funded by the Food for All Foundation through a grant to KFCSCP (Kokolopori-Falls Church Sister Cities Program). ISDR students have also participated in studies and surveys with BCI, Harvard University, and the Max Planck Institute.
Beyond the specific courses, Djolu Technical College offers something even greater: a brighter future for the Congo.
“Our students are thirsty not only for technical knowledge and management skills, but also for the chance to rebuild hope for the future of their villages, and protect the biodiversity of their rainforest.”
–Albert Lokasola, president of Vie Sauvage and co-founder of Djolu Technical College
Graduates of Djolu Technical College are already making a positive and meaningful impact. Beatrice Mpako, the first female graduate (in 2007), is now the Assistant Administrator for the entire Boende district, which is comprised of Djolu and other territories. Others have gone on to work for BCI, other NGOs and enterprises—or have started their own businesses. The seventy students currently enrolled at ISDR-Djolu have similarly high hopes for their careers and their country. Didier Mbenga, one of ISDR’s resident instructors, may have put it best:
“We would like ISDR to become a model for institutions training professionals in the field of environment and conservation, not only for the DRC, but for all of humanity.”
ISDR-Djolu needs your help to remain the institution the students and teachers so appreciate. Accreditation is a vital milestone, but the work at Djolu is far from over. The community has donated land to expand classroom space and students are pressing bricks themselves as part of a work-study program. Support is needed to update the library, as well as computer and internet facilities.
Please donate today to educate the conservation leaders of tomorrow.