ON THE GROUND: The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund

Scheme Community-based conservation projects in Rwanda, Congo and Uganda

Funding An emergency appeal following the lava flow that devastated Goma, Congo, earlier this year raised £53,000. In normal circumstances, the charity receives around £1 million a year from private donations, endowment and an EU grant for education (475,000 euros).

Objectives To protect the last 650 mountain gorillas and 100,000 endangered lowland gorillas through education and providing economic alternatives to poaching and logging.

In January this year, a volcanic eruption north of Goma produced a kilometre wide lava flow that flattened the Dian Fossey resource centre. Computers, motorbikes, mobile phones, printers, cameras and radios were all destroyed.

On top of this, members of staff and their families lost their homes, and the cost of food, fuel and property rocketed, says director Jillian Miller.

The resource centre was the base for the charity's education and economic-assistance activities in the area. Local farmers and community leaders come into the centre to debate conservation issues. The debates were transmitted over the radio and sometimes made into small films. Local community groups and indigenous NGOs also used the computers and equipment in the resource centre.

A fundraising appeal raised £53,000 for the charity in record time and things are improving, said Miller. She said: "We're lucky in that the resource centre was in a rented building so we don't have any capital costs. We're using the money from the appeal to replace the equipment that was lost and to rehouse staff and their families. Tourer Wundi, who runs our radio programme, is now looking after 20 members of his family in his tiny house, after his mother's home was flattened."

Miller said she hopes that the resource centre will be up and running again by the end of April.

During the past few years, the charity has helped set up a variety of small women's businesses, including a pharmacy and a bakery, through its micro-loans scheme.

The combination of the Congo conflict and the volcanic eruptions has destabilised the country, making it impossible to run formal education in schools. The charity gets round this by broadcasting a twice-daily radio programme. "Radio is a hugely pervasive medium - that and football,

says Miller. "In fact, we sponsor the Congo football team, because it's another way to get the message across that gorillas are an asset."

The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund was set up in 1992 to honour Dian Fossey, the occupational therapist whose concern with the plight of the gorillas in Rwanda and the Congo inspired the Hollywood film Gorillas in the Mist.

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