Neema spoke today at the ‘invitation only’ International Women’s Earth & Climate Summit on a panel entitled “Voices from the Forest.” Delegates to the summit included Dr. Vandana Shiva & Dr. Jane Goodall. The following is a transcript of her message:
Congo’s Rainforest – Demanding to be Valued
I represent an association of women called the Maman Shujaa, or Hero Women of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Maman Shujaa talk a lot about the new Congo we are envisioning.
From where we are sitting, what the world hopes for Congo is not enough. The world sees that Congo’s mineral wealth is the greatest on the planet; much greater than Saudi Arabia’s oil reserves. But in fact, besides its people, Congo’s greatest treasure is its rainforest, which hosts 60% of Africa tree population. But it’s not just Congo’s treasure; it’s one of the world’s lifelines. Its biodiversity is a treasure still not fully explored. And its value as the world’s second largest oxygen generator must be recognized so that we as its custodians are properly enabled.
I don’t need to tell you about the value of Congo’s rainforest to the world. I want to propose an idea, a strategy that will empower this international body of women to take the steps to ensure that the Maman Shujaa intention for Congo is realized; that Congo will set a new standard for “Developed Nation” status.
To get right to the point, we need to become very sober about taking care of this lifeline; Congo’s rainforest. Right now, Congo is pretty much lost to most of the world because of the enormous complexity and tragedy of the conflicts. But let’s not be naïve. Yes, Congo has the world’s second largest rainforest treasure, but its mineral deposits dwarf the rest of the world in comparison. With 80% of the planet’s mineral deposits of the most valuable elements in your mobile phones lying in the ground, one day the world MUST come calling on Congo. So NOW IS THE TIME for us to prepare for that Day.
Exploitation of Congo’s mineral wealth will happen; count on it. It’s too important to society in this day and age. Let’s be mindful of what has happened in Ecuador. Let’s not be so naïve as to think we can stop the exploitation of Congo’s enormous mineral store. No, LET’S PLAN FOR IT!
We need to create a Guiding Council for the prudent, calculated exploitation of Congo’s mineral wealth, not only for Congo’s sake, but for the sake of the world. We need a Council of Elders that is charged with creating strategy to influence Congo’s development and mineral exploitation plans, in order to protect the rainforest, the indigenous people, and all the communities that have a living relationship with the forest. This is not “Throwing in the towel”. This is taking the bull by the horns. This is making use of all the wisdom gained to develop a plan and set the stage to establish guidelines in partnership with the Democratic Republic of Congo and the International Community, to reach our goal of “Model Nation”.
Haven’t we developed the wisdom to know where the lines are; to know what are prudent practices and what are not? We can’t think that we can prevent Congo’s resources from being exploited. So let’s use our wisdom,and join with preferred partners from every domain to plan for the coming Day. Let’s work to get proper language in Congo’s laws that put its people, communities, and land, first; language that makes clear where the lines are. Sustainability is not enough. We have lost too much ground already. We have got to establish a strategy that thinks “Replenish”.
This is our chance. Let’s get out of reactive mode and become proactive. Regarding Congo, this is our moment. We still have opportunity to protect and empower Congo’s indigenous people and their ways in our forests, to preserve so many of the heritage sites. We can choose the partners for Congo’s development. This is important because the world economic consumerism model is largely responsible for the weight of this issue. Partnering with DRC and creating criteria for responsible play protects our interests and promotes the model we want the rest of the world to follow.
Let us esteem this opportunity. Let us not be a bunch of visionary talkers and preachers. Let us lead the charge toward the change we want to see; the change our planet needs. When comparing the value of Congo’s mineral wealth to the value of our rainforests for the health of our troubled planet, we have to say the rainforest is priceless. It becomes obvious that Congo’s development is directly related to the health of our planet. This is our chance to take an active role in determining that future. Let’s not let this moment pass us by. – Neema Namadamu