Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Natural sciences centre has survived wars, earthquakes

Time seems to stand still in the wood-panelled library, where students and researchers work in silence as a few visitors amble through the gardens and cloisters outside.

Scholarship is common to universities and colleges in many parts of the world but here, in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the quest for knowledge comes at an exceptionally high price.

The Centre of Research in Natural Sciences (CRSN) in South Kivu has miraculously survived decades of war, natural disasters and chronic underfunding.

Perched on high ground at Lwiro, 45km west of the provincial capital Bukavu, the CRSN was created in 1947 in the style of a rural hacienda under Belgian colonial rule, which ended in 1960.

The institution has established itself as a pole of knowledge about Africa’s Great Lakes region, offering studies in biology, geophysics and the environment, and boasting thousands of samples from the region’s unique biodiversity.

But the centre has suffered many hardships, and struggles today. 

“First, we were victims of multiple wars … [then] we were victims of earthquakes,” said Anicet Bahidika, the head of the documentation department.

The premises have not been looted, but often the fighting reached its gates. The staff members survive on subsidence wages. The centre’s chemistry laboratories lack reagents. It has no money to buy a new vehicle — its vehicles are ancient, and all of them have been bequeathed by passing NGOs.

“Power cuts come at any time,” said Bahidika. “There is no internet here. That is a problem.” — AFP

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Related stories


If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Subscribers only

South Africa breaking more temperature records than expected

The country’s climate is becoming ‘more extreme’ as temperature records are broken

More top stories

US fashion contaminates Africa’s water

Untreated effluent from textile factories in in Lesotho, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mauritius and Madagascar pours into rivers, contaminating the water

Deep seabed mining a threat to Africa’s coral reefs

The deep oceans are a fragile final frontier, largely unknown and untouched but mining companies and governments — other than those in Africa — are eying its mineral riches

Komodo dragon faces extinction

The world’s largest monitor lizard has moved up the red list for threatened species, with fewer than 4 000 of the species left

DA says ANC’s implosion has thrown local government elections wide...

The DA launched its 37-page manifesto on a virtual platform under the banner “The DA gets things done”.

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…