The saviors of the rainforest

The Olching honorary citizen Josef Aicher founded an organization to protect tropical tree areas. During a press conference in the Congo, the missionary reports on the struggle for nature against foreign investors

Every year the latest smartphone, a couple of times a year going on vacation and in summer the beef steak from the biologically correct raised Angus cattle from Argentina, cooked over charcoal, for which a giant tree in the tropical rainforest was cut down in case of doubt: Our lifestyle in the so-called civilized western world harms the environment in a variety of ways. This becomes clear, not least because of the protests by Greta Thunberg and Fridays for Future. “The topic has definitely gained relevance in the last few weeks,” noted the CSU member of the Bundestag for the Fürstenfeldbruck-Ost district. Katrin Staffler took this development as an opportunity for a press conference, at which she only offered the forum.

The real main characters on that day are the former Olching pastor Josef Aicher, who has worked as a missionary in the Congo for decades. Rainer Widmann, surveyor and supporter of social projects in Africa and South America, and Peter Kiefer, who also supports social projects in Africa. “We will not be able to solve the problem in Germany alone”, Staffler immediately draws attention to the rainforest area that spans the globe. The preservation and protection of these old forest areas would be the “most effective climate protection” against the global rise in temperatures, according to the Bundestag members. That is why the CSU politician invited Aicher and his colleagues. The three activists, who are organisationally based at the Kolping Family Olching, report on the situation on site,

Pastor Aicher, Kolping family Olching

In Latin America, for example, Widmann reports, the rainforest is being burned. In Africa, the giants of the jungle are usually cleared. The situation is similar in Southeast Asia: all over the world, rainforest areas are being destroyed by humans. One of the main reasons is the production of palm oil. According to the umbrella organization Transport and Environment, 53 percent of the vegetable fat, which initially appears cheap compared to domestic oils, was used in the European Union for biodiesel and 35 percent for food and chemical products.

Pastor Aicher, Kolping family Olching

In the Congo the forest is not torched, but supposedly well paid. According to Pastor Aicher, Chinese companies in particular are buying land on the foreign continent, clearing and cultivating the forest. Those interested pay 1000 euros for a cleared tree. An unimaginably high sum for the people living there. Understandably, one or the other promise, says Aicher. Especially since after the observations of the pastor who worked in Olching in the 1970s, the situation has changed completely.

Pastor Aicher, Kolping family Olching

“I experienced the good times of nature, the forest was intact. But now everything is no longer in harmony,” says Aicher. When he came to the Congo in 1979, the situation in the forest, but also between the forest and the population, was “heavenly”. He depicts a harmony between man and nature, where man only takes what he needs. “With the war came a complete reversal,” by which he means the armed conflicts between 1996 and 2003.

From 2003 onwards, according to Aicher, the situation in the Congolese forests has turned. People are no longer satisfied with ensuring their survival. They wanted to benefit from the forest. And do not understand that neither game nor trees and plants grow back at will. “The abundance of game has dropped to two percent,” complains Aicher.

Nevertheless, the pastor is optimistic that nature can still be saved. He founded the organization Réseau d’Encadrement des Communautés locales pour la Conservation des Forêts, or Recof for short. Their goal: nothing less than saving the tropical rainforests. In his second home he can already record successes in this regard: Around half of the Congolese rainforest area has already been registered by Recof as worthy of protection and conservation. However, this does not mean that the valuable forest areas are one hundred percent safe. “The provincial government is constantly selling against the will of the central government,” says Aicher. And so it can happen that some hectares of rainforest are actually already included in the Recof protection program,

“The people who live from and in the forest need a livelihood and that is our goal for the future,” emphasizes Widmann. According to him, many more schools are necessary for this, as well as education about the importance and function of the rainforest. Agriculture must also be expanded in the right locations.

But you don’t have to travel to Africa to save the rainforest. The activists around Pastor Aicher look forward to any help, from maintaining the website to sticking up posters. Those interested come to the Africa Stammtisch in the Kolpingheim every first Monday of the month at 7 p.m.

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