KINSHASA: We have just published some new mapping data that reveals what has previously been thought of as rainforest ‘wilderness’ is in fact occupied and ‘traditionally owned’ by thousands of African villagers.
The data from these ‘wildernesses’, which in fact, relates to 32 villages with a combined population of some 56,000 people and covering 209,000 hectares, exposed their extensive network of clan-based customary tenure systems in Western DRC – thought to have been established for many thousands of years. The current way of thinking that these ‘wildernesses’ in Central Africa should be protected through uninhabited national parks or wildlife reserves, despite growing evidence that this approach simply doesn’t work, is damaging – either for the people who would otherwise continue to live in these territories and also for the wildlife they are designed to protect.
It has been possible to obtain and publish this unique information, which will likely have far-reaching implications for how rainforests are managed in the future in DRC and, quite possibly, the entire Congo Basin region, by training our mapping teams in the use of cutting-edge GIS software and enabling them to work closely with indigenous communities. We hold regular training sessions with our partners (RRN, GASHE and CADEM in DRC) and one such session, on our mapping methodology, working with local and indigenous peoples and on the use of GIS software ‘Qgis’ took place in November. These sessions ensure that this kind of valuable data is both efficiently gathered and highly accurate.
This is the first new data available as part of an effort to map up to five million hectares by 2017 in what is the largest mapping exercise of its kind in Africa.