Community Forests


Our Community Forest programme aims to improve livelihoods while reducing deforestation and protecting biodiversity in the Congo Basin by establishing a successful and scalable model founded on the rights and priorities of local communities, including those of marginalised groups such as indigenous peoples and women. 


The issue

To date, the forest sector in Africa’s Congo Basin has strongly favoured large-scale land allocations over community-based forest management. In the Central African Republic, for example, virtually the entire rainforest area is allocated to industrial logging concessions and strictly protected areas, denying forest peoples any control over their traditional lands. However, over time this model has generated little developmental or environmental benefit.

There is now a growing consensus that strengthening forest communities’ rights is a more effective means of both protecting rainforests and fighting poverty. Across the region, legal reforms are now opening up this possibility, notably in the Democratic Republic of Congo where a groundbreaking community forest law enables communities to secure and manage their traditional lands in perpetuity.

What we're doing

  • To ensure the sustainability of national community forestry processes, we push for the ongoing improvement of related laws and policies and promote multi-actor dialogue and integration with other forest, land and climate reforms. We also strengthen the capacity of forest administrations and local civil society to fulfil their important role.
  • On the ground, we support dozens of local communities to understand and navigate their countries' forestry laws, submit applications and develop simple management plans and sustainable livelihoods.
  • In DRC, more than 150 community forests covering three million hectares have already been established, with potentially tens of millions more available to local communities. In CAR, where there is a lack of available land, we support piloting of co-management approaches between community forests and overlapping logging concessions.

Our impacts


Over 120,000 hectares secured for forest communities

We have supported among the first community forests in DRC, securing the rights of more than 28,000 people.


A national community forest database for DRC

A unique database containing official information about every concession and application in the country.


Major policy advances for people and forests

One of the most progressive community forest laws in Africa and a national strategy to guide its implementation.

"For a long time, we’ve seen loggers come here. It was not good. We only knew that the State had sold the forest, and the loggers kept coming… Then you [RFUK and local partner GASHE] came to support us in obtaining our community forest. Our hope is that we reach the end of this process so that the forest belongs to us and we can manage it how we wish…"

Dembele Alexi, village chief - Mibenga, Equateur, DRC

" What I like most (about my work with local communities) is the gender aspect… ‘Gender mainstreaming’ means that there will be women's involvement throughout. Women are not only central to family life, but they also have an important role to play in the use of forest resources…"

Ruth Badubaye, community organiser, Group d'Action pour Sauver l'Homme et son Environnement (GASHE)

"There are lots of hippos on our land. I hope that community forestry will help us better protect them. Perhaps we could start doing eco-tourism, or invite scientists to come and study them."

Robert Corneille Nkamba Itinga Bongo, community leader - Irebu village, Equateur, DRC

Featured publications

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Women’s Participation in Community Forestry in the DRC

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Making Community Forestry Successful in DRC: Anthropological Perspectives on Community-based Forest Management

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Making Community Forests Work for Local and Indigenous Communities in the Central African Republic

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Community Forests in the Democratic Republic of Congo