Community Forests change lives: How a Congolese community won rights to their forest
December 20, 2019
Based on the results of the socio-economic study (which highlights current land uses and needs of the community), the inventories (which identify potential resources), and a detailed analysis of soil types and suitability for specific activities, the community developed a land use plan. This divided their land into three zone types dedicated to rural development (25 percent of the concession), production (30 percent) and protection (45 percent).
Whilst the land use plan shows the multi-use purpose of the concession, traditional restrictions on hunting, fishing and farming have been reinforced to preserve biodiversity and respect forest renewal cycles. The attribution of the largest part of the concession to protection also shows commitment to preserving resources for future generations.
Even though more financial and technical support is needed to make this vision a reality, the community of Ilinga is already making significant progress on its own: a recent field mission led by GASHE found that the community had already started generating communal revenues through cassava farming and sustainable charcoal production. Those revenues are in turn being used to build an office for the Local Management Committee.
The case of Ilinga demonstrates how Simple Management Plans can provide local communities with a better understanding of the resources they currently have and will need in the future, as well as help them to work cohesively towards common, sustainable development goals.
Nonetheless, some challenges remain:
- The capacity of the local administration to review and approve the Simple Management Plans needs to be further strengthened. In addition to meeting other legal requirements, SMPs should be inclusive, sustainable and “multi-use”, and the administration needs training and tools to be able to assess against those criteria.
- It should be made as easy as possible for communities to draft their own SMP. Some current requirements (for example the systematic inventories) can be technical, lengthy and costly, and may make drafting SMPs impossible without significant external support.
Despite those challenges, for the people of Ilinga, the SMP has opened up new possibilities for a brighter, collective future. “Everything we know about our forest is represented in this document – and it will help us improve our lives”, said Gustave Embele Botumba Nkoy, President of Ilinga’s Local Management Committee.
 Groupe d’Action pour Sauver l’Homme et son Environnement
The RFUK-led consortium project Community Forests in DRC (2016-2019) aimed 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 community forest project, implemented by a consortium of Congolese and international NGOs (APEM, CAGDFT, GASHE, Réseau CREF, PREPPYG, InCap and Well Grounded), supported the setup of nine pilot sites in the provinces of Equateur and Nord-Kivu, the development of a robust policy framework for community forestry and capacity building of the DRC administration. It was financed by the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID).