A new landmark regulation that could allow millions of forest-dependent people to protect and manage their local rainforest, and potentially help lift them out of poverty, has been adopted by the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Until now, forest communities in DRC have had no legal right to claim forest lands they have relied upon for generations. The new legislation, passed on 9th February, could enable thousands of communities to apply to use an area of land of up to 50,000 hectares each as a community forest.
Simon Counsell, Executive Director of The Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK), said “Community-based management can be a viable and sustainable means of managing and conserving forests, so the new regulation is a very welcome development for DRC. However, there are also risks. Gradual implementation of community forests would allow this experimental legislation to be tested, and the necessary governmental administration to be developed.”
Joseph Bobia, National Coordinator of RFUK’s national partner in DRC, Réseau Ressources Naturelles (RRN), said: “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.”
Most of the Congolese rainforest not already occupied by logging companies or strictly protected areas could potentially be subject to applications to establish community forests - an area probably in excess of 70 million hectares, or more than three times the size of the United Kingdom.