Community forestry has long been hailed as a strategy for reducing poverty and improving conservation by empowering communities to directly manage their forest resources, but it is a recent experiment in the Democratic Republic of Congo. A recent visit to North Kivu showed signs of progress.
Rodrigue Katembo remporté le Goldman Environmental Award pour sa défense du Parc National des Virunga.
Ranger Rodrigue Katembo risked his life to protect wildlife from oil developers in Virunga National Park—even wearing a hidden camera and pretending to accept bribes. He recently shared his incredible story with WRI.
WRI convened governmental and non-governmental stakeholders in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to inform new rules on community forest rights that go beyond subsistence use of natural resources. The resulting decree completes the legal framework for forest-dependent communities to obtain rights to manage large areas of land over the long term.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), commercial forestry concessions have historically received precedence over community development due to a lack of legally-recognized property rights, limiting communities’ ability to control and profit from the natural resources on their customary lands. DRC’s Forest Code of 2002 gave local communities the right to community forestry concessions, but lacked necessary regulations for implementing these rights, including rules to govern allocation and management of these concessions.
WRI worked alongside a wide range of governmental and non-governmental stakeholders to advance regulations on community forestry concessions. In 2015, WRI conducted a situation analysis of how community forest rights were allocated and managed in DRC to identify obstacles and common ground among the competing visions for community forestry management. WRI collaborated with the Ministry of Environment to design and carry out a multi-stakeholder consultation on crafting the new regulation, served on the validation committee responsible for ensuring the proposed regulation integrated stakeholder views, and provided technical input on language and content.
DRC Ministerial Decree No. 025, signed into law in February 2016, provides rules governing concession management by forest communities. The final regulation incorporates some of the safeguards proposed by civil society actors and WRI throughout the consultation process, such as language on including women and indigenous peoples in the community institutions governing concessions. The legal framework advances community forestry rights in DRC, granting forest-dependent communities significantly more autonomy to manage areas of land up to 50,000 hectares (124,000 acres) and to benefit from a range of uses, such as conservation, ecotourism, small-scale timber extraction, production of wood energy, or the harvest of non-timber forest products.
WRI will continue to support the implementation of community forestry rights in DRC. Next steps include working with the government and other partners to develop a national community forestry strategy and creating an operational guide for how communities should produce required concession management plans.
The rainforests of Africa’s Congo Basin are the world’s second largest, and are increasingly one of the most threatened. Agriculture, mining, logging, and climate change are already chipping away and thinning out the forests’ edge and interior. The Congo Basin forests’ biggest threat, however, is unseen: a lack of good information. With poor infrastructure, government capacity challenges, and hard-to-detect patterns of change, the forests of the Congo Basin are among the most difficult in the world to monitor and manage.
Starting this month, 1,500 high-resolution satellite images of the Congo Basin from the SPOT satellite constellation provided by Airbus Defence and Space are being shared with WRI, thanks to an agreement with French institutions of the Tropical Forest Spatial Observation program.
The Forest Atlas is a dynamic tool that helps decision-makers in the region achieve sustainable management of forest resources through strengthened land use planning and monitoring.