Roundtable: Group helps set the course for DRC’s first community forests

A second national roundtable in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) took place last month [1], where 90 stakeholders from across government, civil society and the donor community reaffirmed their commitment to successfully help implement the first ever community forestry initiatives in the Central African country.

Recent regulation allowing communities to apply for and manage community forest concessions was passed on 9th February this year [2] and a recent briefing by the Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK) and national DRC partner Réseau Ressources Naturelles (RRN) identified this as an unprecedented opportunity for local communities and indigenous forest peoples to play a central role in forest management [3].

“In excess of 75 million hectares of forest, on which tens of millions of people depend for their livelihoods, will potentially be available for community-based forest management,” said Joe Eisen, Research and Policy Coordinator at RFUK.

“On the face of it this is a great chance for forest communities and DRC’s forests but as our analysis also identified a number of gaps and loopholes, implementation at field level needs to be approached step-by-step to ensure it is fit for purpose and doesn’t expose communities and their rights to further risk.” said Mr Eisen.

The meeting, held in Kinshasa on 19th and 20th May, followed the inaugural roundtable in October and gave stakeholders the opportunity to present a draft national strategy and plan which would involve a phased-approach to the implementation for community forestry over the next three years.

Coordinator of RFUK’s local partner Centre d’Appui à la Gestion des Forets Tropicales  (CAGDFT), Theo Gata, said that he was very satisfied with the active participation and technical guidance provided by participants at the workshop.

Participants agreed on the importance of active, long-term monitoring and evaluation of the first community forest initiatives in DRC and to use these on-the-ground results to inform the national-level processes and decision-making.

“Making community-based forest management a pillar of DRC’s forest policies is one of the main objectives of the roundtable,” concluded Mr Eisen.

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[1] Facilitated by CAGDFT together with the Acting Secretary General representing the Ministère de l’Environnement, de la Conservation de la Nature et du Développement Durable, the Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK), the World Resource Institute (WRI) and USAID, the workshop took place in Kinshasa on 19-20 May.

[2] On 2nd August 2014, the government passed into law decree 14/1018 fixing the modalities for attributing local ‘community forest concessions’, enacting Article 22 of the 2002 Forest Code. The setting out of the management procedures for these concessions is the implementing Arrêté n° 025 (passed on the 9th February 2016).

[3] Community Forests in DRC: Towards Equitable and Sustainable Forest Management RFUK/RRN, March 2016. This follows a 2014 briefing by RFUK in response to the decree.

A Communiqué outlining the objectives and outcomes of the workshop, and drawing together the main recommendations to the DRC government, civil society and financial and technical development partners is available here.