Meeting energy needs, fighting poverty and protecting the forests of the Virunga National Park in North Kivu (DRC)

The context


The Virunga National Park & its unique biodiversity are under important pressure due to the population boom (over several decades) and the subsequent growing energy need.

"Makala" is the name given to charcoal. Together with firewood, they account for 97% of the energy consumption in North Kivu province. Makala is the most widely used fuel in urban households. Neither electricity nor gas are readily accessible and the situation will not change in the short term.

Forests are an essential resource for charcoal production and the only easily accessible source of wood remaining is to be found in the Virunga National Park.

The ecomakala-virunga climate project addresses the problem on three levels

Each level of the project allows important CO2-reductions & creates many co-benefits for the local population, in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, while decreasing the pressure on the forest resources within the park


reduce the makala consumption per capita through the use of efficient cookstoves. Since September 2017, 5 346 cookstoves sold


​​produce ecomakala from sustainable forestry


​​enabling reforestation & biodiversity protection

The Program

Makala → ecomakala

Supporting the transition towards sustainable energy supply & avoiding deforestation.

Makala is the local name for charcoal produced from wood harvested from trees, which, alongside fuelwood, is the only accessible source of energy for communities in North Kivu. At present, the lion’s share of the makala on the market is produced using the Virunga National Park’s natural forests. Seen as it is forbidden to harvest wood from these forests, the makala is produced illegally.

Wood energy supply is a complex issue, especially in terms of reducing deforestation in the Virunga National Park without raising the price of makala for households in Goma. The eco-makala project is based on the objective of marketing legally produced, sustainable makala, referred to as eco-makala, which is produced from rapid growth trees, planted on the peripheral areas of the Virunga National Park.

Energy efficiency / Aforestation

Supporting the transition towards sustainable energy supply & avoiding deforestation.

Eastern DRC and more specifically the North Kivu province is the most densely populated region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). More than 90% of the population relies on energy wood and/or charcoal for their energy needs. These two facts lead to a huge pressure on the region’s forest resources. The amount of legal forest resources aren’t sufficient to assure the needs of the local population, leading to an important increase of costs regarding the purchase of wood and charcoal (pressure on households) and a dependence of the provisioning through illegal and unsustainable exploitation of the forests of the Virunga Natural Park (ViPN), Africa’s oldest and most diverse park. The ViNP is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but is suffering from deforestation and degradation mainly due to agricultural expansion and wood extraction for energy purposes for and by the local population. But, the charcoal trade is almost totally illegal business in hands of armed groups and prices are continuing to raise, and so not in favour of the local population.

Preserve: Reforestation

Reforesting with exploitable tree plantations around the Virunga National Park through an integrated local program with important socio-economic co-benefits for the local population.

The main players in the project a the thousand or so small-scale farmers, land owners possessing less than 5 ha of land and tree-planting candidates for makala production in the area chosen for the project. The advantage of working with small-scale farmers is three-fold: they can truly benefit from the development of new techniques, unlock new sources of income and reduce the risk of destruction, theft or extortion through the high number of plots planted (see box 1). Land ownership is a complex issue for small-scale tree-planters. Under the aegis of the traditional and administrative authorities, the project sought to ensure that all land considered for tree planting was not the subject of a land ownership dispute and that the planting candidate was permitted by the authorities to use the land. Land tenure security, be it real or de facto, should ensure that the tree-planter has the right to exploit the land at least until the plantation is ripe for harvesting.

Another crucial factor in our choice of plots for planting was making sure that the reforestation plots were not located within the Virunga National Park. We also made sure that the plots chosen had not been the site of primary or secondary forest exploitation or of a recently harvested plantation.



The ecomakala climate project contributes to many of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) such as No Poverty, Zero Hunger, Good Health & Well-Being, Decent work & Economic growth, Sustainable Cities & Communities, Responsible Consumption & Production, Climate Action, Life on land & Partnerships for the goals.

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> 10.000 ha were planted

between 2009 - 2019

People & Partnerships

5000 tree-farmers were trained
67 local associations are involved

Goma’s surface

1959 = 4.8 Km2
2004 = 35 km² → 2015 = 75 km²

Population in Goma

2004 = 550.000
2020 = 670.000

The partners

Philantropist: UCB

UCB’s ambition is to transform the lives of people living with severe diseases. We focus on neurology and immunology disorders – putting patients at the center of our world. We are Inspired by Patients. Driven by Science.

Project developer: CO2logic

CO2logic is an international & independent climate advisory organisation. CO2logic is specialised in calculating, reducing and offsetting CO2 emissions. It helps organisations in their transition to the low carbon & added value economy.

Local NGO & Farmers

The ecomakala-virunga climate & reforestation project is conceived as a community reforestation project, therefore, many communities of the Masisi, Rutshuru, Lubero and Beni territories, are those implementing the actual reforestation activities. They will greatly benefit from the project. It is a climate project by the people for the people.

For this, small landowners are organized into associations, which are committed to the WWF to carry out the reforestation activities. Since its inception in 2007, the Project have involved 67 local peasant associations and signed 6.199 reforestation contracts, which represents the participation of 4.933 planters.