The Equator passes through the northern part of South America, central part of Africa and the islands of south-east Asia. This area, which lies north and south of the Equator, is in the Tropical region. This region is the warmest and the wettest of all regions in the world. Most of this area is covered with thick evergreen forests.
The Democratic Republic of Congo is situated on both sides of the Equator in central Africa. It is the third largest country in Africa. A major part of this country is covered with dense equatorial forests. We will study in this lesson, how the climate and other factors influence the life of people in this land of dense forests.
A major part of the country lies in the basin of the Congo river, from which it derives its name. Congo, one of the largest rivers in the world, is joined by a number of tributaries from north and south of the Equator. The river is navigable only in parts due to the occurrence of waterfalls, such as the Livingstone Falls, the Inga Falls and the Stanley Falls. The highest waterfall is Victoria. Congo river drains into the Atlantic Ocean at Matadi, The Congo river is also known as the Zaire river.
Places near the Equator generally experience hot and wet climate. Here the sun shines brightly in the morning and by noon it is very hot. The heat draws up moisture, forming heavy clouds. This results in heavy rainfall. The climate can be aptly described as ‘ever hot and ever wet’.
The hot and humid climate helps the plants to grow faster. The land is covered with thick forests. The trees grow densely and compete with each other for sunlight. Below the trees grow a large number of small trees, shrubs and climbers. The tall trees and the dense undergrowth make the forests almost dark even in the daytime. The forests are evergreen because there is a large variety of trees and they do not shed their leaves at the same time. It is difficult to travel through these dense forests and thus rivers are used for travelling. The forests are useful as they provide raw material for many industries. These forests are the largest reserve of hardwood trees such as mahogany and ebony. The other trees include rubber, coconut, bamboo and oil palms.
The forests ore the home to a large variety of animals, birds, reptiles and insects. The most colourful creatures are the birds with long, bright feathers and tails. The animals include elephants, gorillas, hippopotamuses, white rhinoceroses, monkeys, apes, tigers and wild buffaloes. The reptiles include snakes, pythons and crocodiles. Hence, The Democratic Republic of Congo is often called a ‘gigantic zoo’.
It is a thinly populated country. The people belong to various tribes. Most of people speak the Bantu language. Most of the people live in small villages, which are located near the forests. Agriculture and mining are their main occupations. Generally, they clear a patch of forested land either by cutting or burning trees. The main food crops are cassava, maize, rice millets and vegetables. Cassava is the staple food of the people. The cassava plant has long and fleshy roots or tubers under the ground. These roots look like sweet potatoes. The tubers are dug out from the ground and soaked in water for several days. Then the skin is peeled off. The tubers are dried and then pounded into flour. The flour is used for making bread. The cassava plant can grow to a height of about one and a half metres. The main cash crops are rubber, coffee, cotton, groundnuts and oil palm.
A large number of Pygmies also live in the dense forests, They are short-statured people who live in houses made from tree branches, twigs and leaves. Their main occupation is hunting and gathering honey.
The country is rich in mineral resources. Katanga in South Congo is rich in minerals like small diamonds, copper, gold and manganese. The Democratic Republic of Congo is the largest producer of cobalt and industrial diamonds in the world. The other minerals found in the country are copper, tin, gold, uranium, zinc and silver. Most of the minerals are exported.
The Democratic Republic of Congo has only a few industries and most of them are located in the major cities like Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, Likazi and Matadi. The most important industries are cement, textiles, vegetable oils, cigarettes and food-processing.
Means of transport are not well developed. Roads and railways serve a few cities and the mining centers. Rivers are the most important means of transport. Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo is the largest city, Matadi is the biggest port.
After achieving independence in 1960, the government has been trying to exploit and develop the natural resources-of the country. They are seeking and accepting foreign aid for various developmental programmes. Even though the progress is slow, yet it is definitely being made.
1. The Democratic Republic of Congo is an important country in the Equatorial Forest region. It is the third largest country in Africa.
2. The Congo river is an important waterway.
3. The climate is hot and wet, which helps in the growth of dense forests.
4. The Democratic Republic of Congo has very rich wildlife. It is often called a ‘gigantic zoo’.
5. The country is rich in mineral resources.
6. Most of the people live in villages and their main occupations are hunting, fishing, agriculture and mining.
7. The country is rich in mineral resources.