New community mapping data exposes serious flaws in protected areas system

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New community data on MfR has provided more evidence of how protected areas in the Congo Basin have been superimposed over customary lands, raising further questions about how these areas are created and the extent of public consultation.

Nearly all of the local villages located in and around the 714,000-hectare Tumba Lediima Reserve in Western DRC have now been mapped, showing that practically the entire area is subject to longstanding and very well defined customary claims. Since its creation in 2006, conservation measures imposed on more than 100,000 forest-dependent people have effectively deprived many of their principle means of subsistence, with increased reported cases of malnutrition and human rights abuses by eco-guards.

After a three-year struggle by local communities, supported by our DRC partner organisations, GASHE, CADEM and RRN, we believe that it is time for the Congolese protected areas’ authority, ICCN, along with WWF, to look into alternative approaches to managing the reserve (which also overlaps three logging concessions and the jurisdictional Mai Ndombe REDD Programme). While doing that, it’s important to assess how a protected area so incompatible with so many people’s rights and livelihoods ever came into existence, exposing serious failures in due diligence and safeguard policies of the conservation agencies involved.

Other new data uploaded to MfR shows that Tumba Lediima is far from an isolated case, with more overlaps emerging between protected areas and community occupation including around the Dja reserve in southern Cameroon, in addition to the various other examples already on the platform.

Recent research into a sample of 34 protected areas in the Congo Basin published by RFUK in April found that consultation with local communities of any kind had only been reported in 12 (and in only one of these cases did consultations take place before the park was created), while a total of 25 had reported displacement and/or relocation of local and indigenous communities (with a possible additional six areas for which no data was available on this). Not only has this led to increased hardships and violence against local people, the research found scant evidence that the ‘fortress conservation’ approach is achieving its primary biodiversity conservation objectives either, with populations of mega-fauna in sharp decline.

RFUK is calling for a new model of  ‘sustainable conservation’ in the Congo Basin, and a complete rethink of how protected areas in the region are conceptualised and developed.

Please log-in or register to MappingForRights and then click on the yellow button ‘Tumba Lediima Reserve data’ underneath the legend to view the latest data from the area or select data from the community data menu and click on the protected areas layer to view the overlap between communities mapped and various protected areas in the region.