Around 90 participants travelled to Mbandaka in north western Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in September to take part in the first ever provincial Roundtable on Community Forestry.
The event was organised by Congolese NGO, Centre d’Appui à la Gestion Durable des Forêts Tropicales (CAGDFT) with support from the Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK) and the UK Department for International Development (DfID). It follows a series of national Roundtables in Kinshasa, the country’s capital, which recently culminated in the creation of a national strategy on community forestry, a landmark tool that is designed to harmonise and guide the activities of different organisations and government departments across the country.
Many local communities and organisations have only recently learned about community forestry, so the provincial Roundtable in Mbandaka was an opportunity to share the new national strategy, as well as discuss the relevant laws on community forestry, with a more local audience. Indeed, several of the participants at this event journeyed over three hours by canoe to attend. They included indigenous leaders, traditional chiefs and non-profit staff who work in the rainforest.
Régine Mboyo is one such participant. An indigenous woman herself, she is the Coordinator of SPFA (Solidarité pour la Promotion des Femme Autochtones), an organisation that advocates for the rights of indigenous women in DRC. “For indigenous people, community forestry is very important because we have problems accessing our forests. Community forestry is an opportunity for us to manage our own forests sustainably,” reflected Régine. “There has been a good exchange of ideas and information at the Roundtable, with each organisation sharing their experiences on the ground.”
Roundtable participants Régine Mboyo and Doudou Kalala. Credit: RFUK
“This sharing of experiences was a key element of the Roundtable,” explained Claire Parfondry, Community Forests Coordinator with RFUK “It offered civil society members, in particular, the chance to show others, including local and indigenous leaders, exactly how local villages can be supported in establishing their own community forest.” One presenter, for example, showed how his organisation used illustrated guides to help teach community members about the legal steps involved in obtaining a community forest.
Over the next two years, CAGDFT will organise more regional Roundtables in provinces across the country, with the aim of promoting community forestry as an effective tool for sustainable development. The next provincial Roundtable is expected to be held in Goma, in eastern DRC.