This week in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), an international coalition of NGOs led by the Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK) officially launched an innovative new Community Forests project. The project is funded by the UK Department for International Development (DfID) and aims to alleviate poverty, improve rural livelihoods, and reduce deforestation in the Congo Basin.
Focusing on communities in western DRC, Community Forests brings together several international and Congolese partners with a range of expertise. These include: Well Grounded, Centre d’Appui à la Gestion Durable des Forêts Tropicales (CAGDFT), le Groupe d’Action pour Sauver l’Homme et son Environnement (GASHE) and Réseau Ressources Naturelles (RRN).
The legal framework for community forestry was finalised by the DRC government in February 2016. In total, the country has around 100 million hectares of forest cover and is home to about 40 million forest dependent people.
“In terms of land area, DRC could eventually have more community-managed forests than any other country in the world,” said Colin Robertson, DRC Coordinator with RFUK. “With tens of millions of hectares of tropical forest potentially available for community management, it is imperative that we take our time and get this right.”
The project involves an experimental approach to community-based natural resource management, and RFUK has already started working with six pilot sites in DRC’s Equateur province, with additional sites to be selected later this year.
This week’s launch brought together several stakeholders, including government representatives, civil servants involved in forest management and representatives of international and national NGOs working on forestry issues in the Congo Basin. DRC’s Ministry of Environment also participated in the launch.
“I hope that this project will not only help local communities and indigenous peoples to freely secure forest concessions, but also serve to document this experimental process of community forestry,” said Léonard Mwamba Kanda, the Secretary-General of the Ministry of Enivronment. “DRC must get this community forestry process right. We must learn from the experiences of other countries in the sub-region and Africa in order to succeed in this challenge.”
The launch took place in Kinshasa on May 23rd, with a regional launch planned in Mbandaka on Friday, 26th May.
For more information on Community Forests in DRC, click here.
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