Community Forests in DRC
In This Section
Our Community Forests project aims to establish a successful model of community-based forest management, one that focuses on the rights, needs and priorities of local communities, including those of marginalised groups such as indigenous peoples and women.
The project’s overall aim is to alleviate poverty, improve rural livelihoods and reduce deforestation in the Congo Basin.
Locations: Democratic Republic of Congo
Funders: Department for International Development
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has the second largest and most intact area of contiguous rainforest in the world. There are around 100 million hectares of forest cover in the country, representing more than half of the total remaining rainforests in the Congo Basin region.
To date, the forest sector in Africa’s Congo Basin has strongly favoured large-scale land allocations over community-based forest management. However, over time this large-scale model has generated little to no substantive evidence of significant developmental or environmental benefit to local communities. Community-based forest management in the Congo Basin – and in DRC more specifically – still faces many challenges, but there is a growing consensus that strengthening forest communities’ rights is an effective means of both protecting rainforests and fighting poverty.
In February 2016, the DRC government passed community forest legislation in what is arguably the most ground-breaking legal development related to Congo Basin rainforests in recent years. The new law establishes a system of community concessions held in perpetuity up to a maximum of 50,000 hectares, an area ten times greater than that permitted in other countries in the region. In total, over 75 million hectares of forest (three times the size of the UK) could now be available to local communities, who can manage their natural resources according to their own customs and needs.
- Demonstrate, through pilot sites, that Community Forests are viable as a model of pro-poor, sustainable forest management at scale
- Support Congolese civil society organisations in their efforts to cement community forestry laws and policies
- Strengthen Congolese institutional capacity to implement successful community-based forest management in DRC
- Support the set-up of a system for geospatial recording, monitoring and administration of CF pilots
- Improved organisational and advocacy capacities of DRC CSOs to work with communities and partners and effectively engage in policy and institutional reforms needed for the promotion of pro-poor community forest models and for documenting and addressing large-scale threats to their development
- Build support for pro-poor, sustainable community forest management in DRC, with linkages to wider land planning processes recognised
The project, which is funded by the UK Department for International Development (DfID), is testing community forestry in DRC, applying lessons learnt from previous approaches pioneered in forested regions both within Africa and globally.
Unlike previous approaches to community forestry in Africa, which have often used a ‘one size fits all’ approach, the project will ensure that different communities can determine for themselves the best application of community forests in their own contexts. Emphasizing participation, equity and sustainability, everyone in the communities – including indigenous people, women and youth – will be fully engaged so that they can participate in community forest initiatives.
A central pillar of our approach is the need to engage with all relevant stakeholders. This includes engaging with government representatives at the local, provincial and national levels, supporting their efforts in setting up and monitoring the development of the project. It also includes capacity-building activities of local communities and NGOs.
The Community Forests project works at local, provincial and national levels. At the local level, we’re working directly with communities to set up pilot sites. At the provincial and national levels, we’re working to strengthen administrative capacity and to build consensus between government, civil society, donors and other relevant stakeholders through a gradual and controlled approach to community forestry in DRC.
- Set up community forest pilot sites which will be closely monitored and documented for lesson learning and sharing of experiences.
- Support and build the capacity of administrative staff at the national, provincial and territorial levels.
- Provide support to Congolese civil society organisations, developing their capacity to carry out research, conduct field investigations and provide valuable input to government on relevant policies.
- Continue to facilitate Round Tables on Community Forests , bringing together government agencies, donors, international NGOs, Congolese civil society and local communities
“This marks an important moment in history for forest people in DRC who have struggled for many years to realise their rights to use the land they rely on to live. We now need to work together to ensure that community forests actually serve our forest people and pave the way for more a participatory, devolved and integrated form of land-use planning.”
Joseph Bobia, National Coordinator, Réseau Ressources Naturelles (RRN)