On 5 June, World Environment Day is celebrated, as an opportunity to create and foster awareness about the urgent need to preserve and enhance the environment. This year, the focus of this international day is the call for urgent action to restore and revive our damaged ecosystems. To mark this day, a conference took place at the Bugabo campus of the Catholic University of Bukavu, a UNAI member institution in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The university has been actively promoting actions toward sustainable development issues within the framework of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including through its Department of Environmental Sciences within the Faculty of Sciences, and students are taking the lead. One concrete example is a students' club called 'Spirit of Ecosystem Protection Club (Club ESE)', which was in charge of the organization of the aforementioned conference.

The club was created just three years ago, with a vision of contributing to the search for solutions to the environmental challenges and problems encountered in the province of South Kivu in particular, located on the eastern side of the country. It pursues the objective of promoting the ecological rehabilitation of biodiversity and intends to achieve this through various activities related to environmental education, environmental impact studies, conference debates, and many more.

Dozens of students participated in the conference, that addressed topics such as ecosystem restoration, terrestrial ecosystem restoration, monitoring and evaluation of ecosystem restoration projects and a case study with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations - FAO project on the restoration and management of mountain ecosystems in South Kivu. 

According to official documentation of this project, the province "is one the most densely populated and poorest provinces in the country, with some 80% of the population living below the poverty line. Population pressures, together with poor land management practices including overgrazing and unsustainable timber and fuel wood harvesting, have resulted in significant forest and landscape degradation." 

Floribert Mbolela, Forest and Landscape Restoration Mechanism (FLRM) focal point of the FAO at the local level, stressed during his presentation while underlining the role of students, that mobilization is a fundamental component of any initiative in this sense, in order to promote key messages for the benefit of the environment and the ecosystems. Other presenters during the event were Fabrice Muvundja, Professor of the host institution, Gérard Imani, Coodinator of GAD -a civil society organization-, and Aloïse Bitagirwa Ndele, from the university's Research Center on the Environment and Geo-Resources.

For the students, the deterioration of the environment is severe, with indicators clearly visible to all the inhabitants in the South Kivu province. This is why their goal was to discuss mechanisms precisely for preventing degradation, recognizing degraded environments, combating degradation, examining reasons for restoration, and learning techniques that can be used to find healthy living spaces. The students shared their various concerns but also their ideas and motivations in this regard.

"Nature is our common home, so we must take care of it for ourselves and for the future generation," said one student, Joëlle Kalimunda. For Christian Bashizi Cikuru, the restoration of ecosystems is indeed a long process, but students can take the initiative to start with it at any point in time. "Let us carry within us the love of our Earth," expressed Nancy Chimanuka Ahana, as a way to inspire environmental action. "We can still act," highlighted another student, Urban Balame Batasema.