THE POLE POLE FOUNDATION
29 years protecting gorillas in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
Photo: The Earthshot Prize
Read a little bit about the diverse group of people who oversee the work of the Pole Pole Foundation in the DRC.
John Kahekwa Munihuzi - founder and general manager of POPOF
Award-winning conservationist, and the Kahuzi-Biega National Park’s chief gorilla tracker from 1983 to 2003.
John was born in 1963 in Miti village near the KBNP headquarters.
His aunt was the wife of Adrien Deschryver, a co-founder and the first warden of the KBNP.
At the age of ten, John watched a film of the Kahuzi-Biega gorillas and dreamed about working for the Park in the field of conservation.
In 1983, after secondary school, he was employed by the Park as a gorilla tracker.
John is now world-famous for his gorilla conservation work and his holistic approach to sustainable community development, in an area which has been badly-affected by conflict and bloodshed.
Watch here to see John Kahekwa explain how and why he started the Pole Pole Foundation in 1992.
Eddy Kahekwa - Chief of the Department of Community Conservation
Eddy was born and grew up in eastern Congo (DRC).
Passionate about the environment and nature conservation, he studied Ecology and Forest Resources Management at the State University of Bukavu. Eddy has also studied logistics, asset management, transformational leadership, hygiene and water sanitation, project management, drainage and water management, environmental law, sustainable tourism, sustainable agriculture and human resource management.
His aim as Head of Community Conservation is to create a universal scheme of conservation in the home range of the Grauer’s Gorilla, as well as developing initiatives for local communities to become the main conservationists of their region’s natural resources.
Barthelemy (Bathy) Wenga Mulindwa, Chief of Departments
Bathy has a master's degree in HIV/AIDS management from Stellenbosch University, South Africa. He is in charge of managing strategic implementations of HIV/AIDS prevention initiatives in the rural communities surrounding the habitat of the gorilla sub-species known as the Eastern Lowland Grauer's Gorilla (gorilla beringei graueri) in the Kahuzi-Biega National Park, as well as Maiko National Parks, Itombwe Natural Reserve, Tayna, Walikale and Kasese forests.
Juichi Yamagiwa, PhD, Japan Representative, Member of Honour and Advisor
President of Kyoto University, Japan. Primatologist and professor at the Laboratory of Human Evolution Studies, Graduate School of Science since October 2014. The President of International Primatological Society in 2009. He first came to the Kahuzi-Biega National Park in 1978 to prepare his thesis in primatology. He became very familiar with the park staff, especially the guides and the trackers. He and John met in 1983 and tracked gorillas together. Both identified gorilla members and recognised over 155 individuals and have published several scientific papers as co-authors.
He joined POPOF as a member of honour in 1993. He is the representative member of POPOF Japan.
Augustin Kanyunyi Basabose, PhD, Member of Honour and Advisor
Dr. Augustin K. Basabose, from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), has played a leading role in the conservation of great apes in Central Africa for more than 20 years. He graduated with a PhD degree in Zoology from Kyoto University, Japan, after completing a thesis in 2005 on chimpanzee ecology in the montane forests of Kahuzi-Biega National Park, DRC.
He was our National Representative for the International Gorilla Conservation Program (IGCP) in DRC between 2006 to 2012, and became the Interim Director of IGCP from April to December 2012. Dr. Augustin participated as team leader in a number of Biodiversity Surveys on small and large mammals in the Albertine Rift Region, including several gorilla censuses in the Kahuzi-Biega National Park (in 1996 and 2000), Virunga Volcano Range (in 2010) and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (2006 and 2011).
Dr. Augustin has been an active member of the Executive Committee of the Great Apes Section of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) primate specialist group since 2005. He is a life member of the International Primatological Society and has been a member of the Editorial Board of the International Journal of Primatology since 2011. He is an international collaborator for the Leading Graduate Program in Primatology and Wildlife Science at Kyoto University, Japan. Dr. Augustin teaches Primatology-related courses at a number of universities in Eastern DRC. He has been a member of the Pole Pole Foundation since 1995.
Byakesho Mizinzi Marie Claire, School Headmistress of the kindergarten & primary schools
By the time Byakesho Mizinzi Marie Claire graduated secondary school, she already had to feed her children. As it was impossible for her to find any job at the time, she had no choice but to illegally collect wood from the Kahuzi-Biega National Park to sell to others in the village. Having realised her potential, John Kahekwa invited her to work at the kindergarten and primary school in 1999. Since then, she has worked hard and gained the respect of the students and the other staff. In 2007 she was promoted to be the school's headmistress, or 'Directress'.
She won a local scholarship and is studying rural development.
Valentin Nyaluhaze, Headmaster of the secondary school
Valentin Nyaluhaze is a teacher of more than three decades experience. He has been leading POPOF’s secondary school since 2004. The first intake of pupils to take the state exams in agro-forestry succeeded with a 100% pass rate, thanks to the good skill and guiding hand of Nyaluhaze and his co-workers.
Danny Kahekwa, Deputy Head of Department of Scientific Research
Danny has a bachelor's degree in Ecology and Forest Resource Management from the Official University of Bukavu. He researches nature conservation and he is President of the Conservation Youth Club, which aims to educate, involve and enthuse the next generation about the importance of nature conservation. More recently, Danny has also been running our new spirulina facility at Miti-Mululu.
Dr. Richard Milburn, UK Representative, Trustee of The Pole Pole Foundation UK, Member of Honour and Advisor
Richard was born and brought up in London, UK. Having travelled and volunteered in teaching and conservation activities in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, he studied Politics, Philosophy and Economics at the University of York, UK.
He met John Kahekwa in April of 2011 while on a work placement with the International Gorilla Conservation Programme, researching conservation in conflict and post-conflict environments as part of his Masters in Post-War Recovery, also at the University of York. He was so impressed with the work being done, that he wanted to help POPOF and so took up the offer of becoming POPOF's representative in the UK.
Nikki Jones, Trustee of The Pole Pole Foundation UK, Advisor
Nikki used to work as a cook on trans-African overland expeditions in the 1980's, which is when she first met John Kahekwa and visited the Eastern Lowland Grauer's gorillas in the Kahuzi-Biega National Park. Having worked as a bi-lingual secretary in industry, she is now a wife, mother and smallholder in the Midlands of the UK. Delighted to have been reunited with John in 2015, Nikki works closely with Richard Milburn overseeing The Pole Pole Foundation UK.
Kawabe Tomohiro, Partner in Web-Public Relations
Kawabe is a TV production coordinator and translator at AdvanBridge Inc, Japan. He lived in East Africa for eight years and he met John in 1997 during his first visit to the Kahuzi-Biega National Park for a documentary film. Since then, he has arranged several documentary filming projects in the KBNP in cooperation with POPOF.
Dimple Agarwal, Advisor
Dimple was born and brought up in India where she studied Psychology followed by a Masters in Human Resource Management. She has 28 years of experience in consulting on people and organisational issues working with clients across India, SE Asia, Middle East and Europe. After her last corporate role as Deputy CEO Deloitte UK she decided to take a career break and pursue her passions in girl’s education and sustainability. After watching The Earthshot Prize she got in touch with POPOF, visited DRC and engaged with all the initiatives which inspired her to join as an Advisor. She hopes to meaningfully contribute to POPOF by using her experience in large scale transformation.