Sixty-four DRC communities combine to form ground-breaking, sector-wide map

A landmark map, created by 64 communities of the Mpama sector, in Lukoléla territory, Equateur Province, DRC – the first of its kind to represent an entire administrative unit – was presented publicly to the sector chief at a ground-breaking meeting in August.

Mpama

Members of the local communities – designated by the communities – presented their maps, which demonstrate that almost the entire 585,000 hectares of the sector is under customary land tenure. The maps were presented to over 100 people, including authorities of the sector of Mpama and of the territory of Lukoléla, traditional chiefs, Congolese Institute for Conservation of Nature (ICCN), representatives of logging companies located in the area and local forest peoples who attended the delegation, organised by RFUK’s local partner organisation GASHE, at the Mpama sector hall in Bobanga.

The sector map, based on community maps that were made using low-cost and easy-to-use technologies, revealed a well-defined and long-standing clan-based management system involving more than 200 clans, with a population of about 100,000 people. To our knowledge, this is the first time that an entire administrative unit (sector) in the Congo Basin has been mapped in this way and provides further evidence that much of the region is subject to similar customary claims by communities. This could have far reaching implications for how forest lands are governed in the future, and have a bearing on land-use planning, tenure reform, community forests and REDD processes already underway.

Almost 80 percent of Mpama sector – located in the Lukolela territory of Equateur province – is covered by the controversial Tumba Lediima Reserve and three industrial logging concessions. The sector map will now become a vital tool for communities who are pressing for their rights to be respected and to participate in the management of the reserve.

RFUK’s Mapping Co-ordinator, Georges-Thierry Handja said: “We hope this landmark public presentation of an entire sector map will show the world what forest communities are capable of; that they can establish, organise and manage their lands sustainably. Not only do they have a right to participate in decisions made about their traditional lands and be involved in the management of them, they are keen and also very able to do so.”

This week, 16 communities in Banunu Sector, also in Lukolela Territory, DRC, will present their map to sector authorities their map of customary occupation and use of land and resources, showing how almost 35,000 people live in the 200,000 hectare area of forest.

To view the Mpama sector leaflet produced by RFUK and GASHE (in French), please click here.