Stakeholders working to ensure the sustainable management of forests in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have resolved to put communities living in and around forest concessions at the heart of things.
Since 2015, national and international actors alongside the government of the DRC have worked to put in place a national strategy on community forestry that will ensure that forest communities benefit from the management and use of their forests. This was in part motivated by publication of the community forestry law no. 011/2002 of 29 August 2002.
The development of the strategy benefited from the contribution of Congolese CSOs, community representatives, the government and international non-governmental organisations (INGOs) notably Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK) and Rainforest Foundation Norway (RFN). This is commendable as it portrays an innovative paradigm shift that promotes collaboration which is a rare phenomenon in the development sector.
The strategy aims to ensure that local communities play a major role in the sustainable and equitable management of forests with the goal of ameliorating their living conditions, in particular indigenous peoples. This is expected to eliminate poverty which stands out to be the most dreaded companion of these forest communities.
“This process [community forestry] seeks to ensure that local communities contribute in the management of their forests and reap sustainable benefits from them”, said Mr. Theophile Gata, Executive Director of Centre D’Appui à la Gestion Durable des Forêts Tropicales (CAGDFT).
Mr. Gata insisted on the need for civil society, government and International Non-Governmental Organisations (INGOs) to work closely with local communities to enable them to drive the community forest management process in the country. He made this statement at the third multi-stakeholder conference on community forestry in DRC, which took place in Kinshasa on February 15th and 16th 2017. I attended the event on behalf of Well Grounded.
This third roundtable (in a series of four) sought to consolidate the national strategy on community forestry. It was attended by over eighty participants. It served as a platform for knowledge sharing among a diverse range of stakeholders who seek to increase and guarantee indigenous peoples’ involvement in managing their forests.
Stakeholders at the conference devoted time to highlight strategic actions that can facilitate achievement of the national strategy core objective:
- Identify specific geographic sites to implement the pilot phase in the next five years.
- Strengthen capacities of stakeholders at the national, provincial and local levels considering their contextual needs to ensure their effective participation in the community forestry process.
- Pursue the strategic objectives, which are to:
- Ensure that community forests facilitate the effective usage of concessions;
- Sufficiently contribute to poverty reduction, peace and social cohesion in rural areas and develop mechanism for the even distribution of revenues from the exploitation of community forests;
- Guarantee the legal protection of concessions for local communities to promote the valorisation of forest resources;
- Develop expertise in local communities to ensure the effective management of forest resources.
Participants at the roundtable affirmed that if these objectives are attained, it will increase the possibility of indigenous communities benefitting from forest resources.
“As an indigenous person, if we can achieve these objectives, the management of forests will be our responsibility. All stakeholders will collaborate in the management of these forests, so we will benefit from the resources of the forests”, said Regine Mboyo Loloko, Coordinator of Solidarité pour la Promotion des Femmes Autochtones (SPFA) based in the province of Equator.
A strategy of this nature is welcome. Key to this is how it will be implemented in an inclusive manner that gives local communities the pride of place in the process.
Participants at the roundtable included national civil society actors, the Ministries of Urban Development, Agriculture and Environment and Sustainable Development, INGOs such as Well Grounded, Rainforest Foundation Norway and Rainforest Foundation UK that are supporting this community forestry process in the DRC with support from the UK Department for International Development (DFID).
The roundtable is organised under the Community Forests in the DRC project. This is a consortium project funded by DfID. The project brings together several international and Congolese civil society organisations with the aim of alleviating poverty, improving rural livelihoods and reducing deforestation in the Congo Basin.