Protect &
Restore Nature Finalist

The Democratic Republic of the Congo


As a child, John Kahekwa dreamed of working with the Eastern Lowland Gorillas, known by many as 'Grauer Gorillas' the more endangered sub species of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

He became a ranger, and expert tracker in Kahuzi-Biega National Park, where he saw first-hand that the plight of the gorillas, and the future of the local communities, were bound together - all under ongoing conflict and amid devastating poverty

In 1992, Kahekwa founded Pole Pole Foundation after asking a poacher to explain why he was doing what he was doing

The man replied, “empty stomachs have no ears”. He realised he needed to focus on the root causes of deforestation and bushmeat poaching: poverty and hunger.

Today, the Foundation runs farming projects that grow low-cost, nutritious foods. It helps former poachers gain new skills, while teaching the importance of conservation to the next generation and providing vital support to rangers working in the park. And, they have planted four million new trees to create a buffer between people and the natural world.

Becoming an Earthshot Prize Finalist in their 30th anniversary year gave Pole Pole Foundation an incredible platform to continue protecting the Kahuzi-Biega National Park, and enhancing the livelihoods of the local community.


The Earthshot Prize