7th December 2017
Protected areas are having a devastating impact on the rights and livelihoods of forest communities in Africa’s Republic of Congo, a report published today by the Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK), reveals.
The extensive report, entitled The Human Cost of Conservation in Republic of Congo: Conkouati-Douli and Nouabalé-Ndoki National Parks and their Impact on the Rights and Livelihoods of Forest Communities, finds that communities living in and around the two parks are subjected to heavy-handed policing by eco-guards, often resulting in serious harm and even death.
Simon Counsell, Executive Director of RFUK and co-author of the report said that for conservation in Republic of Congo to succeed, it is imperative that the rights of local and indigenous communities are recognised, respected and guaranteed.
“Our investigation shows these parks have been established and run without the consent and engagement of local communities. Conservation restrictions prevent communities from accessing their traditional lands and resources, hampering their subsistence activities. This is totally unacceptable,” he said.
Conkouati-Douli and Nouabalé-Ndoki national parks are located in south-western and northern Republic of Congo, respectively, and together represent an area of nearly one million hectares – about half the size of Wales. Both parks have received millions of dollars in funding from conservation organisations and international aid agencies, including US and European donors.
The report covers six villages across the two parks and features some often alarming testimonies from local residents about the threats facing them. Our research team found that, in both parks, tensions between communities and park authorities are high, and there have been serious abuses of human rights and frequent conflict.
“We are calling on funders such as USAID to adopt a zero tolerance approach to human rights abuses by conservation agencies and their eco-guards in Republic of Congo’s protected areas and elsewhere. Aid agencies and conservation organisations involved in funding protected areas need to ensure they respect national and international laws and cause no harm to forest dwellers, who represent some of the poorest people on the planet,” Mr Counsell concluded.