The Issue

With tens of millions of hectares of rainforest in south-east Asia lost to palm oil, rubber and other commodities, there is now surging demand for land in the Congo Basin countries. For their part, governments are welcoming large-scale agriculture projects with open arms, promoting them as a way to bring economic development and jobs to one of the world’s poorest regions.

But for local and indigenous communities, the reality is often strikingly different. Projects have been associated with their forceful displacement from ancestral lands, protracted land conflicts, loss of livelihoods with little or no compensation, disregard for their free, prior and informed consent (FPIC), as well as water and soil pollution.


Our position

These impacts are largely a consequence of Congo Basin governments’ disregard for customary land rights, the absence of land-use planning and lack of transparency on the true costs and benefits of such projects. Agricultural development should uphold rather than threaten forest peoples’ rights and livelihoods, whilst also protecting the environment and benefitting national interests. We believe this means improving land governance, realising forest peoples’ rights, which includes catering to their development needs and aspirations, adopting environmental protection policies, improving transparency throughout the process, and setting out more specific and stringent obligations for both the companies and the state.

What we're doing

  • We research the threats that agribusiness projects pose to forests and people, and advocate for their inclusion in forest policy and land-use planning processes.
  • On the ground, we support impacted communities to map their land and resource claims, monitor threats to their forests, and hold governments and companies to account.
  • Our community forest work in the Congo Basin and the award-winning indigenous livelihoods programme in Peru support alternative smallholder models, improving value chains and access to markets, and showing how sustainable forest economies are compatible with community-based conservation.

Featured publications

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Safer Ground: How Participatory Mapping can Mitigate the Social Impacts of Agribusiness in the Congo Basin

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Palmed Off: An Investigation into Three Industrial Palm Oil and Rubber Projects in Cameroon and the Republic of Congo

Seeds of Destruction: Expansion of Industrial Oil Palm in the Congo Basin