Today, the Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK) has launched a new short film on its community forests project in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The film features several communities, the first supported by RFUK and its partners, as they gain legal rights to their forests and are formally recognised as the managers of their local environment.
Across the Congo Basin, traditional community management of forests is widespread. However, a lack of formal (legal) rights for communities means that at any moment the government could award their land to logging companies, convert it to oil palm plantations, or even establish a new strictly protected area – all with the community having little or no say in these decisions.
Community forests represent an opportunity to protect tropical forests while improving the livelihoods of some of the poorest people on the planet. As such, they have positive implications not just for the communities concerned, but also – because of the link between deforestation and climate change – for the whole world.
RFUK and its local partners in DRC have been working with communities since 2016 to help them navigate the country’s new laws on community forests and to obtain legal land titles. This has now become a reality for six communities spanning 60,000 hectares of forest – an area ten times the size of Manhattan.
The key to RFUK’s work has been to engage every part of the community, including women and young people, who are often marginalised in decision-making, ensuring that important decisions about how to manage their forests are made as a collective.
In this new film, community members explain, in their own words, how they hope to use their forests sustainably and preserve them for future generations.