Yangambi Research Station

Andrew McConnell

Deep in the lush jungle of central DR Congo, the Yangambi research station is a crumbling relic of Belgian colonial ambitions in the heart of Africa~~Yangambi Research Station is the former Belgian headquarters for all major ecological, biological and agricultural research in Africa between the 1930s and 1960. It stretches for 33 km inland from the Congo river and contains 250 residential houses and many research buildings and offices, including a herbarium and library. ~~At it's height, approximately 250 scientists and 500 technicians were based here along with 1000 Belgian workers ranging from doctors to bricklayers. If the families of staff members and the visitors to the station were included, the population would have reached serval thousand. ~~In 1960, with Congolese independence and despite Congolese attempted to maintain Yangambi - sometimes in co-operation with the Belgium - the facility began to fall into disrepair.

War in the 1990s halted all potential for progress and for the past decade a skeleton crew has made a futile attempt to stave off further decline.~~So-called 'Kilometer 5' of the research station was the complex where the pre-eminent banana expert and Belgian scientist Edmond De Langhe lived and planted bananas gathered from all over the world. De Langhe worked on developing subsistence bananas and investigating banana history in Africa. When he left in 1960, banana types he had researched and bred, including YK5 and Ibota Ibota, spread throughout Congo and beyond. ~~Today, 'Kilometer 5' of Yangambi is on the frontline of attempts to breed a banana resistant to the deadly Panama Disease which threatens to wipe out the common Cavendish banana found in supermarkets worldwide.~~Panama disease has already destroyed many Cavendish plantations in Asia and scientists believe it is only a matter of time before the disease spreads to Africa and Latin America. With no commercially viable alternative the consequences of Cavendish's demise could be huge.

 

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      DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

      A man navigates his pirogue along the Congo river...

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      Residential houses at Yangambi Research Station. This...

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      An old Volkswagon Beetle sits in the garage of a...

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      The Herbarium at Yangambi Research Station,...

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      Some of the bird collection still present in the...

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      Congo river traffic en route to Yangambi. With few...

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      Gros Michel was the banana of choice for banana...

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      A man reaches to examine bananas on a plant.

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      A wild banana, containing seeds. Wild bananas are...

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      A smoked monkey and plantain bananas in Yamgambi...

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      The remains of what was once a tyre factory within...

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      Yangambi Research Station is the former Belgian...

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      People in one of the outer villages of Yamgambi. The...

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      A man carries banana suckers on his bicycle for...

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      The interior of Yangambi Research Station Library....

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      The interior of Yangambi Research Station Library....

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      Former office of the preeminent banana expert and...

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      Placide Kamabu, Director of Yangambi Research Station...

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      A map of the Yangambi Research Station adorns the...

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      Interior of the conference room in Yangambi Research...

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      A map of DR Congo, seen on the wall of Yangambi...

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      Typewriters still in use at the Yangambi Library, at...

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      Benoit Dhed'a Djailo (54), Professor of the Faculty...

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      Banana suckers are catalogued after being removed...

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      Women carrying firewood pass by an abandoned and...

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      A pirogue on the Congo river at dusk. With few paved...

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      Women selling plantain. Plantain is the most common...

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      Boiled plantain is mashed to make Lituma in a local...

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      Plantains are loaded onto pirogues in Kisangani....

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      Boiled plantain is served at a local restaurant....

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      Palms seen at dusk as storm clouds gather over the...

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