Women in Bamasobha participating in discussions which led their community to apply for a community forest.
When the villages of the Bamasobha community sought legal recognition of their traditional forests, a village chief, M. Sweli Maliani, declared: “We asked for a Community Forest because this is how we can secure our land, and prevent poachers and illegal loggers from coming in”.
On 16 March 2021, as the Governor of the North-Kivu province signed off their “Local Community Forest Concession”, M. Maliani’s community gained legal rights over 29,142 hectares of forest.
The Bamasobha clan (composed of Bantu farmers) and the indigenous Wambuti people who also live there, thus officially became the managers of their ancestral land. Legal certainty over their resources will be a strong incentive for investments into sustainable commercial activities, as their livelihoods currently revolve around small scale agriculture, fishing, gathering, hunting and artisanal logging. The community intends to do so while also preserving their forest and their outstanding landscapes, which could be very valuable for eco-tourism.
The community developed its Community Forest application with support from RFUK and our North Kivu-based partners PREPPYG and Réseau CREF. The process entailed the participatory mapping of their land, the revitalisation of existing governance bodies to make them more inclusive, and agreeing on the limits of the territory with neighbouring communities to avoid any conflict in the future. This follows RFUK’s and our partners’ approach to community forestry: it must be grounded in existing community practices, which in this case is clan based, but also push for enhanced participation of traditionally marginalised groups, notably women and indigenous peoples.
This is the first community forest to be granted in the Lubero territory, but it comes at a time where a growing number of communities are securing their forests in North-Kivu – 125,000 hectares have already been granted in the province.
Map showing the location of Bamasobha community forest within DRC.
For local actors, this is only the beginning. RFUK and our partners will remain in the area to accompany Bamasobha in the next stage. According to Buthelezi Kambale, Executive Secretary of PREPPYG, “the community forest protects the territory of Bamasobha from the encroachment of agro-industries, logging interests, artisanal mining and the expansion of strictly protected areas. But a long way remains to support the community to manage their forest sustainably, to enhance their wellbeing while protecting the forest for future generations“.