RFUK research in Republic of Congo reveals vulnerability of indigenous forest communities to climate change

New research from RFUK, Congolese NGO Forum pour la Gouvernance et les Droits de l’Homme (FGDH) and other indigenous peoples organisations shows that forest communities and indigenous peoples in the Congo Basin already believe they are experiencing the impacts of climate change.

Participatory research carried out with local communities in the remote northern province of Likouala, used a number of techniques such as seasonal calendars and forest transect walks to reveal that lives have become more difficult in recent years due to increased temperatures, reduced rainfall and forest degradation. Each has direct health impacts. Less rain, for example, leads to stagnant, polluted water, which can cause disease and is a breeding ground for malaria-carrying mosquitoes.

The indigenous Bayaka are financially poor and highly dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods which makes them acutely vulnerable to climatic changes. In addition they have very little support from state services and their way of life is often not understood or respected by external actors. However, the research team also identified how traditional knowledge and coping strategies could help them adapt. Bayaka have an intimate knowledge of the forest, especially when it comes to gathering medicinal plants (such as leaves or tree bark) to combat fever and coughs or gathering resources.

There are an estimated 50,000 indigenous people out of a total population of 3.7 million in the Republic of Congo, which is approximately the size of Germany. RFUK has been working in the country for over ten years and helped support the development of a Law on Indigenous Peoples Rights, which passed in 2011 and is a first in the Congo Basin region.

To read the study, click here