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Yangambi episode 1: a science palace in the heart of the forest

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                More than two thousand kilometers from Kinshasa and one hundred kilometers from Kisangani, in the heart of the Congo Basin forest, lies an unsuspected gem: Yangambi.

                                    <p>In the province of Tschopo, in the north-east of the DRC, this immense scientific city, once the largest tropical research station in the world, was the seat at the time of Belgian colonization, of INEAC, since renamed INERA, Institut national for agronomic study and research.

On site, between the mighty Congo River and the large hundred-year-old trees of the second largest tropical forest in the world, we travel among the curious remains of colonial buildings, brick and wood, with their chandelier extinguished, but well and truly still standing. And we discover treasures of knowledge and biodiversity, from the largest herbarium in Central Africa, to the immense research library, including the xylotheque or collection of tropical woods.

Although isolated, the places have spanned the country’s tumultuous history, from Belgian colonial and imperialist exploration by the Congo River to the intensive and murderous exploitation of the rubber tree, which everyone remembers in the dark hours. . Today, colonial appetites crossed with science have made way for a Unesco biosphere reserve of more than 250,000 hectares and new projects supported by international donors. Long neglected, Yangambi is slowly reborn, in particular thanks to the support of the European Union and CIFOR, the International Forestry Research Center. Little by little, researchers are finding their way back through the long corridors of its library and that of the tracks of the largest forest in Africa, the second green lung in the world after the Amazon, which must be protected from deforestation, an international issue, colossal and vital … But to do this, you have to know how to get along with the local populations who live in or around the biosphere reserve. Men of the forest who draw their resources and subsistence there, but also their culture and ancestral knowledge.

A series in 2 episodes by Élise Picon, initially broadcast on 07/05/2020 and 07/12/2020.

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Useful links on Yangambi :

  • Find the activities of the CIFOR who, since 2017, has set up the FORETS project in Yangambi

  • Discover the INEAC in pictures, at the time of the Belgian colonists

  • The Botanical Garden of Meise in Belgium participated with INERA agents in the digitization of herbiers de Yangambi

  • The Kabako studios in Kisangani launched the deforestation awareness project ” Draw me a forest »

  • More info on the Yangambi Biosphere Reserve. An article by Justin Kyale Koy.

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The Belgian art journal Almanac Sale, “Journal of philosophical workers and intellectual tinkerers” imagined, in its 2021 edition, a story illustrated by Chevalme sisters from Elise Picon’s radio series.

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© Illustration of the Chevalme sisters © in the SALE Almanac n ° 7


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