Skip to main content
2021 Finalist
and Restore Nature

Pole Pole Foundation

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Eastern Lowland Gorillas are critically endangered by deforestation and poaching. The Pole Pole Foundation tackles the root causes of both: poverty and hunger.

Their Story

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 Global Alliance Member Arup has designed specifications for the John Kahekwa Community and Conservation Centre – which, when completed, will support greater food production, increase eco-tourism, and generate craft gift income. 

Other Finalists in Protect & Restore Nature

Learn About the Earthshots

and Restore

By 2030, we choose to ensure that, for the first time in human history, the natural world is growing – not shrinking – on our planet. 

This Earthshot focuses on three main areas of interest: 

  1. Protecting areas of high biodiversity such as forests, wetland, peatlands and wildlife corridors
  2. Restoring damaged ecosystems
  3. Feeding people while protecting nature
Learn more about this Earthshot

Clean Our

By 2030 we choose to ensure that everyone in the world breathes clean, healthy air – at World Health Organization standard or better. 

This Earthshot focuses on three main areas of interest: 

  1. Engaging citizens in data collection and clean air policies
  2. Preventing the burning of fields, forests and waste
  3. Transitioning to clean transportation for all
Learn more about this Earthshot

Revive Our

By 2030, we choose to repair and preserve our oceans for future generations. 

This Earthshot focuses on three main areas of interest: 

  1. Protecting and restoring coastal ecosystems
  2. Replenishing fish populations
  3. Reducing demand for fishmeal
Learn more about this Earthshot

Build a

By 2030, we choose to build a world where nothing goes to waste, where the leftovers of one process become the raw materials of the next – just like they do in nature. 

This Earthshot focuses on three main areas of interest: 

  1. Reducing food loss from farm to fork
  2. Phasing out single-use and non-recycled plastics
  3. High-value circularity in fashion and electronics
Learn more about this Earthshot

Fix Our

We choose to fix the world’s climate by cutting out carbon: building a carbon neutral economy that lets every culture, community and country thrive. 

This Earthshot focuses on three main areas of interest: 

  1. Creating an equitable clean energy future
  2. Addressing non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions
  3. Decarbonising hard to abate sectors
Learn more about this Earthshot
The Earthshot Prize