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PODCAST: Visiting Central Africa, with Molly Bergen

Using three field recordings to guide their conversation, Molly Bergen and WRI Vice President for Communications Lawrence MacDonald discussed the prospects for sustainable forestry in one of the world's most biodiverse areas, the Congo basin.

As the Central Africa Communications Officer, Bergen has reported and published multimedia stories from the field about everything from how community forests could change lives in the rural Democratic Republic of the Congo to how technology is helping unlock the secrets of the Congo's forests. Her position is part of the CARPE Program, "a long-term initiative of the United States Government to promote sustainable forest management, biodiversity conservation, and climate change mitigation in the Congo Basin through increased local, national, and regional natural resource management capacity."

Their sonic tour begins with the roar of elephants deep in the Dzangha Sangha protected area in the Central African Republic, taken in a clearing where up to a hundred forest elephants sometimes gather to drink. Bergen has reported on fighting the ivory trade in the courts of the Republic of the Congo. "Even in this same site, in 2013, a number of elephants were slaughtered by poachers that came from Sudan. It's a challenge that crosses borders," Bergen said. "The elephants are incredibly important for the health of the forests. People rely on the forests, so it's a kind of codependent relationship." They discuss the potential for ecotourism to see the elephants, also a subject Bergen has written about.

In the second clip, Bergen is visiting the Goma market in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. "It can be very challenging to make sure I'm meeting the right people [when I'm reporting]," Bergen said, "so I record background sounds, because it helps me later in remembering the ambience." MacDonald and Bergen discuss the challenges of reporting from a remote place where you're an outsider—a status that comes with privileges and challenges.

The last clip is the best: a chorus of women singing a song of welcome in the northwestern Democratic Republic of the Congo. "In the background you can hear the men hammering together fuel-efficient stoves, which is a CARPE-supported project," Bergen explained. "The charcoal trade is a big threat to the forest. Around Virunga National Park, about 80 percent of the charcoal that fueled Goma was illegally sourced from the park. Fuel-efficient stoves can reduce charcoal use by 50 percent, which means people have to spend less time looking for charcoal, better respiratory health and jobs [for the people making the stoves]." (The photo above is a woman with one such fuel-efficient stove.)

Learn more about Bergen's work with the CARPE Program here.

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