Working in the “Other” Congo

During our final IBD class, our group was named “the most adventurous team”.They definitely weren’t kidding.Our team has traveled six hours in a dugout canoe, rode in the back of an open truck (ducking as tree branches swept across our heads), and followed Pygmy guides for countless hours through the jungle. This past week, we have waded across rivers, been bitten by swarms of ants, ran from a wild elephant, and were charged by a silverback gorilla.It’s been a ton of fun!

A baby gorilla ponders the meaning of life at Mondika

Our IBD team has been sent to the Republic of Congo (not to be confused with the Democratic Republic of Congo) to assist the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in growing ecotourism at Nouabalé Ndoki National Park.While the experience has been a great opportunity to apply lessons from Strategy, Marketing, Accounting, and Problem Finding Problem Solving, I have gained just as many insights about operating in a developing country.Seeing a country’s corruption ranking from Transparency International in class doesn’t always prepare you to pay bribes before you even leave the airport.

The project has also highlighted the influence that organizations have on their communities and the interdependencies involved.Though noble in its own right, the WCS’ goal of protecting endangered species and threatened habitats limits the local population’s ability to hunt and log to support itself.The organization spends as much effort on collaborating with Congolese governments and villages on these issues as they do on research and conservation.The amount that the WCS and its partners accomplish given their limited resources is astounding, and their holistic and responsible approach to environmental protection is enlightening.We sometimes see the exhaustion and frustration of staff members, but we also see the genuine passion they have for their work.

Nouabalé Ndoki’s base camp at Bomassa

From outrunning wild animals and working with some of the world’s best researchers to shaping an organization’s business strategy and dancing to “Dynamite” with my teammates, I couldn’t have asked for a better start to the summer!

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