The Eyes of Virunga: From Poacher to Protector by Virunga Heroes
Come help us transform illegal charcoal makers into solar powered park rangers in the Virunga National Park in the DR Congo.
The Eyes of Virunga is a virtual and physical adventure-filled Eco-Trek to the Virunga National Park to engage and connect world-wide stakeholders of the Park to compassionate actors on the ground in support of the projects outlined by the Virunga Alliance.
The Eyes of Virunga will include several 'journeys' aligned with the Alliance's economic development and project strategies, including delivery of solar powered chargers to the Park Rangers. The Alliance recently won the support of Google as part of their Google UK Impact Challenge, connecting Virunga communities to the world via Google sponsored communications hubs and a safety network improving the reporting of poachers and other threats to the viability of the Park.
The electricity provided by the solar chargers will power the equipment needed to protect the rainforests of this World Heritage Site from poachers and illegal charcoal producers who use the trees of the National Park to produce charcoal, which is sold illegally to the displaced people of the DR Congo.
What actions do you propose?
- Action Values: Leveraged Alliance Project Buy-In. In order to guarantee that this project is sustainable, project participants will be required to first fund the Virunga Alliance project of their choice prior to visiting the Park in person. "Master" funding from partners like the Climate CoLab will provide matching grants to Eco-Trekkers as they raise funds for both their favorite project and their visit. Special crowdfunding platforms will be provided to Eco-Trekkers to assist them in their fundraising.
- Action 1.0: Virunga National Park Eco-Treks. Project participants will become heroic eco-volun-tourists on behalf of one of the world's greatest and most threatened rainforests, both from home and from the Virunga National Park, providing support for to the economies and educational institutions of the communities surrounding the Park via its residents, educators and leaders.
- Action 2.0: The Eyes of Virunga Interactive Documentary. The project will be filmed and produced into a film that will be broadcast to the world as an engaging example of a project that any active conservationist can replicate to help protect their unprotected critical habitat.
- Action 3.0: Post Screening Calls To Action. The film will be produced as a "transmedia" project where targeted partnerships will be highlighted during a post-film screening "Director's Cut" format, where particular emotive events captured in the film will be tagged with an action agenda item and subsequent partner support call to action. For example, a scene of a Park Ranger being injured in the line of duty can be paired to a pop-up asking for support of the Thin Green Line Foundation, supporting rangers and their families.
Who will take these actions?
Robert Williams, Virunga National Park, to assist in the production of "Eyes of Virunga" partnerships including a forthcoming fiscal sponsorship for this project. Robert serves as Project Advisor.
The Virunga Alliance, HQ for the Virunga National Park Action Agendas serves as project fiscal sponsor and organizational leadership.
Morey Bean, Founding Member, Impact HUB Boulder, Conservationist and Architect, serving as Project Director.
Thatcher Bean, Filmmaker serving as Project Co-Director, Cinematographer and Editor.
Jordan Kopp, Boulder High School student, Mountain Gorilla Conservationist, serving as Student Director and Intrepid Eco-Trekker. This "All About Poaching" presentation was created by Jordan in the 7th grade.
Future Partnerships in Development.
Rainforest Connection An exciting project is being mobilized in rainforests around the world that provides low-cost forest listening devices connected to the cloud that will provide instant threat alerts to park protectors of potential illegal logging via audio signals sent to the cloud. We anticipate deployment of these devices in the forests of the Virunga National Park.
tifie The Eyes of Virunga Team anticipates partnering with tifie (Teaching Individuals and Families Independence through Enterprise) to deploy solar powered technology including recharging panels to the National Park Rangers.
Association of National Park Rangers In anticipation of the Eighth World Ranger Congress to be held in 2016, the Team will collaborate to strengthen the relationship between ANPR and the Rangers of the Virunga National Park.
Kiva In order to support local enterprise, a special portal to specific micro-finance entrepreneurs will be established for Eco-Trekkers and their social network members to make loans to aspiring business persons.
Where will these actions be taken?
- Virunga National Park, DR Congo via the Democratic Republic of Congo
- Online, internationally in several interactive social action platforms such as Participant Media, change.org, FiReFilms, Tribeca Sandbox, Care2, Harmony Institute, Upworthy and TakePart.
- In Schools surrounding the Park connected to international conservation educational programs like Roots and Shoots internationally.
- Boulder International Film Festival, March 2015 where we're hopeful that the movie Virunga will be screened, including a BIFF Call to Action platform engaging audiences with meetings, discussions and in
- Eco-Trekkers Communities theaters, backyards, schools, churches and community centers upon their heroic return, with amazing stories to tell and an impactful film to show.
How much will emissions be reduced or sequestered vs. business as usual levels?
Assuming that a Park Ranger using a portable 30W solar panel and power storage unit can double his/her effective protection area from 200 to 400 hectares that prevents the illegal logging and charcoal production of the additional area, (@ 50 tons CO2 / hectare), 10,000 tons of CO2 can be prevented from release to the atmosphere, the equivalent of taking 2,000 cars off the road (@5 tons CO2 / car / year).
Eco-trekkers will also participate in a partnership with the Virunga Alliance and a carbon footprint reduction enterprise such as TerraPass as Carbon Balance Business Partners providing carbon credits and footprint reductions to both eco-trekkers and their supporters.
What are other key benefits?
- International awareness of the Virunga National Park as the focus of rainforest threats and the resulting need to take action.
- Direct carbon footprint reduction for both eco-travelers and their supporters.
- Education about the actions that conservationists can take to protect threatened rainforests.
- Systemic Economic Change in the current system that allows the production and illegal trade of charcoal to a system that encourages and rewards the use of renewable solar power.
- Positive Social Change where poachers and rebels who are now forced to survive by producing charcoal to a social system that encourages the training and employment of park rangers who use renewable energy in their job.
What are the proposal’s costs?
An integral part of the project's success will be eco-trekkers commitment to the success of the Virunga Alliance's projects by putting their economic support of the non-tourism projects first and their visit second. Eco-volun-tourists' crowdsourced funding campaigns on platforms such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo will emphasize that the only way the campaign will be successful is only after a selected non-tourism Virunga project has been supported with a "Sustainability Budget" in an amount equal to their tourism budget amount.
Action 1.0: Virunga National Park Eco-Treks: $20,000 per trekker, including a $10,000 trip budget and $10,000 pre-travel matching project support budget.
Action 2.0: The interactive "Eyes of Virunga" film: $165,000 Matching funding is anticipated with the support of funding agencies such as Creative Capital, the TFI New Media Fund, The Fledgling Fund and other similar call to action supporters.
Action 3.0: Post Screening Calls To Action: $120,000 Annually will provide continuing and sustainable support for Eco-Trekkers and their social network communities. In order to make the enterprise sustainable, income will be earned from a percentage of grants and loans made to Virunga based micro-entrepreneurs.
Potential Negative Side Effects
- A better economy may reward more materialism and more greed if Western advertising follows the money.
- The charcoal produced will still be used as it's diverted from the illegal trade to be used by DR Congo populations who have been displaced by war and given the retrieved charcoal for survival use in their refugee camps.
- Although the Virunga National Park is open to visitors, the Eco-Trekkers will be at a heightened personal risk in a somewhat unstable political setting.
- The endangered Mountain Gorilla of the Virunga may be at greater risk of being murdered as militants escalate their attempts to protect their charcoal production activities by sending messages of retribution and fear.
The phasing for project implementation will be in collaboration with the phasing of projects sponsored by the Virunga Alliance. See:
- First Eco-Trek to the DR Congo, winter 2014,
- Screening of "Virunga" , Boulder International Film Festival, March, 2015,
- Online Interactive Media launch in conjunction with the Netflix launch of the Movie Virunga,
- Follow-up Eco-Treks to Virunga, Summer, 2015,
- Development of the Renewable Energy Eco-Trek Conservation Project, and
- Deployment of Park Ranger park surveillance technology including solar powered device charging and power storage equipment.
- Protection of greater areas of critical rainforest habitat.
- Development of an international park ranger mentorship program in conjunction with the Thin Green Line Foundation and the Association of National Park Rangers.
- Systemic economic, political and socioeconomic change similar to those found in neighboring Rwanda.
- Establishment of local micro-entrepreneurial businesses organized around renewable energy and eco-tourism.
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