The ECOmakala project, together with local farmers and businessmen, is protecting the innumerable riches of the Virunga Park in Congo Alpro, who’s never using soybeans from deforestated areas, is supporting the ECOmakala project, working hand-in-hand with WWF in order to halt the deforestation of the Virunga Park in East Congo. There, trees are being felled on an enormous scale for the production of wood charcoal, “makala” in Swahili. By working with the local farmers to plant special woodland areas and with local businessmen to manufacture stoves that help to use 30% less charcoal, the project is “killing three birds with one stone”: helping to protect the natural forest, providing extra jobs, and lowering energy costs for tens of thousands of families. Alpro and WWF now want to get consumers involved: for each Alpro soya drink Original 1L sold in the coming weeks, 10 cents will go to the ECOmakala project and help to prevent the deforestation of the Virunga Park.
Wood charcoal: the greatest threat to the Virunga Park
Due to its unique fauna and flora, the Virunga National Park in East Congo is the reserve with the greatest biological diversity in Africa, and is therefore a rare and priceless treasure for the continent and for the earth. The greatest threat to the park comes from illegal tree felling for wood charcoal, “makala” in the local dialect. The inhabitants of Goma, just about the poorest and most heavily populated town in Congo, right next to the park, are forced to use enormous quantities of charcoal for cooking and heating. Every year, Goma uses up to 50,000 tons of wood charcoal, mainly originating from the Virunga Park.
ECOmakala and efficient woodstoves: the ideal weapons
In order to assist in preventing the complete destruction of the forest, WWF established the ECOmakala project, to which Alpro has now become committed, encouraging its customers in turn to make a contribution. With the encouragement of the ECOmakala project, more than 7,000 local farmers planted 10,000 hectares of new woodland outside the borders of the park in the past few years. These tree plantations are intended for the production of legal charcoal, and are planned in such a way that 1/3 of the trees can be felled regularly. At the same time, local organisations and artisans produced and distributed 70,000 energy-efficient wood stoves (using 50% less charcoal) among the inhabitants of Goma. The result was soon apparent: charcoal consumption fell drastically. Good for the environment – along with the reduction in deforestation, the CO2 emissions plummeted – and good for the housekeeping budget of the families, who saw their energy costs reduced by half. Thanks to the collaboration with Alpro, WWF can now order the production of a further 14,000 energy-efficient wood stoves, which will ensure the conservation of a further 2,500 hectares of forest per year.
Building a sustainable future
“ECOmakala is about building a sustainable future”, says Koen Stuyck of WWF. “It is all about energy efficiency, protecting a biodiversity that’s both magnificent and essential, and about providing the tools to help the development of a sustainable economy. It is about people who can live in harmony with nature. This is the reason why WWF started up the project and why Alpro decided to support ECOmakala.”
“At Alpro, we always give our local partners as great a role as possible. The ECOmakala project links up perfectly with this philosophy”, explains Greet Vanderheyden, manager for sustainable development at Alpro. “In the first instance, it is the local farmers and the local business people, who are personally fighting against deforestation. By creating jobs and combatting poverty, the ECOmakala project ensures that the people in Goma are helping themselves to protect one of the most precious nature reserves on the planet.”
Soy in the battle against deforestation
“By using soy for human consumption and not as cattle food, we can make enormous reductions to our ecological footprint, and combat deforestation. 1 litre of Alpro soya drink Original does not only use less water and CO2 compared with one litre of semi-skimmed cows’ milk, but impressively, it only needs half the land. What’s more, Alpro uses zero ingredients that come from the deforested regions: half of our soy beans come from Europe and the other half from Canada”, explains Greet Vanderheyden. “This not only gives us the guarantee that no genetic modification is involved, but assurance that our soy does not by any means come from deforested regions.”
This is also why more and more consumers are choosing plant-based food. Alpro and WWF wish not only to inform the consumers, but to get them practically involved in the battle against deforestation. “We are launching a special WWF edition of our Alpro soya drink Original 1L”, states commercial manager for Belgium Wim Bauwens. “On the packaging we explain the ECOmakala project and sustainable soy. And for every litre that we sell, 10 Euro cents go straight to WWF. Alpro places tremendous importance on sustainable development. Our growth should also add value to society. We wish to inform our consumers about this commitment, we want to really to work to make our commitment a reality.”
Contact for the press:Greet Vanderheyden, Sustainable Development & Communication Manager – Tel. +32 9 260 22 35 – Greet.Vanderheyden@alpro.com