Training a new generation of Congolese forestry researchers
Training a new generation of Congolese forestry researchers
A young man studies in the botanical gardens at the University of Kisangani, Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo by Axel Fassio/CIFOR
FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM
In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), education initiatives are transforming the classroom experiences of aspiring researchers.
Among the innumerable casualties of the decades-long series of conflicts and instability in the DRC, education is one of the most overlooked. Even now, the amount of research into the wartime impact on the country’s education system is very limited — but one thing is certain. If, for decades, going to school posed more safety risks for children than staying at home or in hiding, achieving further degrees was out of the question.
As the fourth most populous country in Africa (and second largest by size), the DRC is now making its way toward recovering its social and economic health, and educating its people is an increasingly crucial component to success. Only with empowerment through knowledge and capacity development can the Congolese, and the research and development organizations and businesses that employ them, impact the growth of the country — and the sustainable use of its natural resources and landscapes.
The DRC has the world’s second-largest area of contiguous tropical forests after Brazil, and those forests are distinguished by their rich biodiversity. But, there has long been a lack of trained personnel to care for and manage them properly. In 2005, the country’s entire forestry research cadre comprised just six people with Master’s degrees; in comparison, the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa) employs more than 8,500 PhD holders. The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), has since trained 115 Master’s students and 15 PhDs.
University of Kisangani (UNIKIS) Rector Prof. Dr. Toengaho Faustin Toengaho says his vision is “to serve the needs of the Congolese society.” To accomplish this, he has proved an exemplary policy champion of the curricula reforms, such as an innovative Master’s-level natural and social science curriculum and an international PhD program. Both programs align capacity-building efforts with the national License, Maîtrise, Doctorat initiative (Bachelor’s, Master’s, PhD program, shortened to LMD) in a bid to improve land governance in the future.
UNIKIS now has partnerships with universities and research organizations in France, the United Kingdom, Canada and Belgium, and in-classroom innovations and novel teaching methods continue to heighten the impact of these programs. There’s now an electronic library, joint local and international supervision of students, UNIKIS staff trainings, article-based thesis requirements and an annual Science Week event. The Ministry of Higher Education has since adopted a similar model to Science Week and all the universities and faculties in the country promote scientific research and innovation.
To further aid student growth, a local “accompanying committee” has tracked student progress and helped students develop scientific writing skills, public speaking skills and the confidence to submit their research to publications. Since 2013, students have submitted 31 articles to international peer-reviewed journals. Perhaps the work of Congolese students will influence not just their own country, but others as well.
By D. Andrew Wardell and Gabrielle Lipton, originally published at CIFOR.org.
Molinario, G., Hansen, M.C. and Potapov, P.V., 2015. Forest cover dynamics of shifting cultivation in the Democratic Republic of Congo: a remote sensing assessment. Environmental Research Letters 10
Nackoney, J., Molinario, G, Potapov, P., Turubanova, S., Hansen, M.C. and Furuichi, T., 2014. Impacts of civil conflict on primary forest habitat in northern Democractic Republic of Congo, 1990-2010. Biological Conservation (2014) http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2013.12.033
Zhuravleva, I., Rurubanova, S., Potapov, P., Hansen, M., Tyukavina, A., Minnemeyer, S., Laporte, N., Goetz, S., Verbelen, F. and Thies, C., 2013. Satellite-based primary forestry degradation assessment in the Democratic Republic of Congo, 2000-2010 Environmental Research Letters 8 (2013) http://dx.doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/8/2/024034
This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry and was supported by the European Commission, Global Climate Change Alliance (Forests and Climate Change in the Congo) and European Commission Delegation-Kinshasa (11th European Development Fund, DRC).
Structured Stakeholder Engagement Leads To Development Of More Diverse And Inclusive Agroforestry Options
Structured Stakeholder Engagement Leads To Development Of More Diverse And Inclusive Agroforestry Options
02 March, 2017
Authors: Emilie Smith Dumont, Subira Bonhomme, Timothy F. Pagella, Fergus L. Sinclair
There is a lot of interest in the contribution that agroforestry can make to reverse land degradation and create resilient multifunctional landscapes that provide a range of socio-economic benefits. The agroforestry research agenda has been characterized by approaches that promote a few priority tree species, within a restricted set of technological packages. These have often not spread widely beyond project sites, because they fail to take account of fine scale variation in farmer circumstances. New methods are needed to generate diverse sets of agroforestry options that can reconcile production and conservation objectives and embrace varying local conditions across large scaling domains. Here, we document a novel approach that couples local knowledge acquisition with structured stakeholder engagement to build an inclusive way of designing agroforestry options. We applied this approach in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where armed conflict, erratic governance and poverty have resulted in severe pressure on forests in the Virunga National Park, a global biodiversity hotspot. Around the park, natural resources and land are severely degraded, whereas most reforestation interventions have consisted of exotic monocultures dominated by Eucalyptus species grown as energy or timber woodlots mainly by male farmers with sufficient land to allocate some exclusively to trees. We found that structured stakeholder engagement led to a quick identification of a much greater diversity of trees (more than 70 species) to be recommended for use within varied field, farm and landscape niches, serving the interests of a much greater diversity of people, including women and marginalized groups. The process also identified key interventions to improve the enabling environment required to scale up the adoption of agroforestry. These included improving access to quality tree planting material, capacity strengthening within the largely non-governmental extension system, and collective action to support value capture from agroforestry products, through processing and market interventions. Integrating local and global scientific knowledge, coupled with facilitating broad-based stakeholder participation, resulted in shifting from reliance on a few priority tree species to promoting tree diversity across the Virunga landscape that could underpin more productive and resilient livelihoods. The approach is relevant for scaling up agroforestry more generally.
It’s a tall order solving the myriad developmental challenges in North Kivu Province in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where years of conflict have caused so much human suffering and environmental upheaval. Today the province is plagued by rampant deforestation and land degradation and hence low agricultural production, while also having to cope with high population densities and urbanization rates.
These can all be tackled, according to the provincial Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries, Livestock and Rural Development, Christophe Ndibeshe Byemero, if agroforestry forms the basis for a strategy for sustainable agricultural development.
The Minister was speaking at a workshop held earlier this year in the provincial capital, Goma, to examine ways to develop and expand agroforestry in the area. Organized by the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). The workshop brought together 46 participants from a wide array of local, national and international organizations, with strong representation from civil society groups from many parts of the Province. It marked the culmination of three years of agroforestry research in development in the region that aimed to develop a socially inclusive strategy for scaling up agroforestry and tree diversity.
According to Thierry Lusenge of WWF in the DRC, the time is now ripe to recognize the importance of agroforestry in helping populations adapt to and mitigate climate change, reduce deforestation and improve food security.
It built on the knowledge gleaned from previous workshops and acquired through interviews with diverse groups in the area, bringing together participants from four territories in North Kivu. Participants looked back at their agroforestry accomplishments over the past three years and at lessons learned from the diverse projects they’d been part of.
Deogratias Mumberi Kyalwahi of the women’s conservation group, Femmes Actives pour la Conservation de la Faune et de la Flore (FACF), presented findings from a project to establish agroforestry and improve agricultural production around the city of Beni, as a way of reducing human encroachment in the neighbouring Virunga National Park.
Virunga is a World Heritage site that boasts 2,000 plant species as well as endangered animal species including the iconic mountain gorilla.
Fataki Baloti, representing the youth conservation group Jeunes pour des Ecosystèmes décents et l’Assainissement de la Nature (JEAN), spoke of their work to achieve food security and combat malnutrition, by integrating livestock production and agroforestry, which improved relations between local people and the Congolese wildlife authority, Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN), which is responsible for the national park.
Improved human welfare around the park, with more – and more diverse – tree cover that provides income, environmental services and contributes to food security, is critical for preserving the park and for peaceful, constructive interactions between nature conservationists and local people.
Other participants highlighted peri-urban agroforestry projects around Goma to combat poverty and malnutrition – introducing shade trees in coffee systems in the Beni territory, trees for improving soils in Rutshuru territory, and promoting raising and selling tree seedlings in Lubero and Kirumba towns.
Emilie Smith Dumont of ICRAF explained that agroforestry “while not a panacea, can contribute to making livelihoods and landscapes more sustainable”. She emphasized that it involves many different practices suitable for different people and places, such as planting trees on contour slopes, establishing windbreaks for pastures or fodder banks, fruit trees in orchards and homegardens. These include diverse tree species adapted to different environments and to specific needs of the farmers themselves.
Removing barriers to adoption
Participants agreed that while significant progress has been made in collecting information on promising native tree species for agroforestry in the region, and in developing practical tools, including a technical agroforestry guide that helps people to put agroforestry knowledge into practice, some key changes in policy and practise are needed for further agroforestry expansion and development in the region.
They identified seven major issues that need to be addressed in an integrated way – gender, markets and commercialization, governance, availability of and access to quality tree planting material, improving agroforestry know-how given low literacy rates, threats such as fire and pests, and, cultural realities.
Gender and tenure at the fore
Women farmers trade at the evening market in Kitchanga, Masisi, North-Kivu, after a day in the field. Many members of the community are internally displaced and farming marginal land with no tenure security.. Photo by E Smith Dumont.
Two issues – tenure and gender – emerged as perhaps the most pressing constraints. On theissue of gender, Vea Kaghoma of the league of women’s smallholder organizations in DRC, Ligue des Organisations des Femmes Paysannes du Congo, was adamant and unequivocal. Speaking at the closing of the workshop, she said women, who constitute the majority of farmers and traders, should be at the heart of all agroforestry efforts in North Kivu and that the participation of women’s organizations is indispensable if these efforts are going to succeed.
Emilie Smith Dumont of ICRAF concurs. “Without secure land tenure, especially for women, it is difficult to progress to the next step of really scaling up agroforestry in DRC,” she says. Farmers cannot begin to envisage making long-term investments in their land health or in tree planting if they do not have secure access to land.
Spreading the word
Dumont Smith is greatly encouraged by the momentum that emerged from the workshops, and at on-going work by participants to put into practise what they have learned over the past three years.
Wilson Kasereka Kabwana, president of a group to support and consolidate peace and development in North Kivu (Programme d’Appui à la Consolidation de la Paix et le Développement or PACOPAD), reports that his group has now developed a nursery for several agroforestry species. They work with local communities and schools to spread the word on their value for nutrition, as medicine or for the environmental services they provide.
Mone Van Geit, Project Manager International Programs, WWF Belgium, says the idea is to continue to cultivate the strong partnerships that were forged during the FCCC project, with strategies that will permit WWF to support local communities in diversifying species and practices to address a broader range of stakeholder needs. When it comes to energy woodlots, which she says remain a key priority for WWF around the park, diversification and inclusion of native species will be high on the agenda. This will require innovative approaches to test mechanisms for incentives and trials for species carefully designed and evaluated.
Fergus Sinclair who leads the systems domain at ICRAF said he hopes that ICRAF, WWF, their partners in DRC, and new ones with an interest in tenure, gender and markets, will be able to secure support for multidisciplinary projects that will build on the foundation laid by FCCC and act as the launch pad for agroforestry development in the region.
In the words of the provincial minister, Christophe Ndibeshe Byemero, in ten years, if partners continue to work together, North Kivu could become a veritable “model of agroforestry”.
For more information on this work, please contact Emilie Smith Dumont:[email protected]
Representatives from more than a dozen countries across three continents had the rare opportunity to discuss these and other questions at a recent REDD+ knowledge-sharing event held from 8-10 June in Addis Adaba, Ethiopia.
The three-day meeting, hosted by the Wondo Genet College of Forestry and Natural Resources at Hawassa University, brought Ethiopian policymakers and practitioners together with researchers from 15 REDD+ countries in Africa, South America and Southeast Asia to present and analyze their progress. Research on REDD+ forms part of the climate change theme of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.
Discussions showed that while countries develop their own approaches to REDD+, incorporating national circumstances in their policy design, the challenges they face in avoiding deforestation remain largely similar.
Timing is crucial, but it’s not everything
It would be easy to assume that early-mover countries have already progressed with REDD+ to a stage where ‘payments for performance’ can be made. However, it appears that some early-mover countries – such as Indonesia, Vietnam, Mozambique and Papua New Guinea – are still struggling with policy design and implementation, meaning that late-comer countries could yet catch up.
Laos launched a REDD+ task force in 2008, and has conceptualized REDD+ as a shared responsibility of two ministries, but there is still the classic problem of conflict between institutions, which has created confusion. Overall, REDD+ in Laos is seen as a project, and not as policy development. Things may be changing, however, since a new prime minister assumed office on 20 April and has already issued a moratorium on timber and log exports.
On the African continent, Ethiopia recently finalized a REDD+ national strategy, covering REDD+ goals, governance, measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) design, and financing options. REDD+ activities in Ethiopia will be implemented with both in-country and external funding, including through agricultural intensification. The jurisdictional REDD+ project in the regional state of Oromia is now entering its final stage of implementation, with a pledge by Norway of USD 50 million.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is busy establishing REDD+ policies and measures, as well as a major demonstration site in Mai Ndombe to prepare for results-based payments – the third and currently final phase of REDD+. However, there is still no national REDD+ coordination, and drivers such as mining and large-scale agriculture are not included in REDD+ policy development.
Stumbling blocks on the road to ‘transformational change’
Business-as-usual is a powerful force. Conflicting interests in the agendas of different actors involved in deforestation — across and within ministries, and across levels of governance —can be a major challenge for achieving effective, efficient and equitable REDD+.
Lack of land-use planning, unclear tenure, weak law enforcement and uncertainty over long-term funding were also found to be common challenges. Another was the lack of continuity in commitment from politicians.
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The politics of the possible
Politics do matter when moving forward with REDD+. Analysis from Indonesia, Guyana, Burkina Faso, Nepal, Brazil and many other countries show that either the political carousel is rolling too fast within election cycles to maintain momentum for change, or the attention span of politicians is too short to carry out major reform.
One example mentioned was Indonesia, which until 2014 rapidly developed a REDD+ mechanism under the leadership of a president with a strong public commitment to mitigate climate change. During this time, a REDD+ national strategy was established, as well as a REDD+ agency with the power to coordinate across ministries, a REDD+ financial mechanism, regulations related to REDD+ implementation, MRV infrastructure and more. Policies were issued, including a peatland moratorium policy, and a one-map policy.
With a change in presidential leadership in 2014, everything seemed to change overnight. The new president, with a strong focus on strengthening governance and economic development, merged the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Forestry, dismissed the REDD+ Agency, the Climate Change National Council (DNPI), and the presidential office for development monitoring (UKP4), as the institution where the REDD+ task force was hosted. He then established a Directorate General of Climate Change Mitigation under the new Minister of Environment and Forestry, handing over the tasks of the late REDD+ Agency and DNPI.
Reactions were mixed among participants at the Addis Adaba meeting – some questioned the effectiveness of the first president’s measures in halting deforestation, considering that by 2014 Indonesia had become the country with the highest rate of deforestation in the world. They argued that change under the new president presented a possibility for greater ownership over the REDD+ process within the government. Meanwhile, others argued that the changes indicated weakened political will and undermined effective REDD+ policy making. However, all participants agreed that the changes in the political configuration contribute to an unclear future for REDD+ in Indonesia.
Optimists and pessimists
REDD+ gives reason for both cautious optimism and also some skepticism.
One topic that stirred controversy in discussion among country representatives was the strategy of integrating REDD+ into green economy pathways, as adopted by countries such as Guyana, Indonesia and Vietnam.
Participants said that this kind of strategy can ensure that the roadmap for transformational change is more comprehensive in targeting the underlying causes of deforestation, and can help to remove perverse incentives such as subsidies for land-use change driving deforestation and forest degradation.
However, some participants shared pessimistic concerns that with the introduction of ‘green economy’ or ‘green growth’ language, attention moves away from tangible measurable carbon and non-carbon outcome performance to rather fuzzy concepts with very little REDD+ objectives within.
One key condition to move forward with REDD+ seems to be the upfront investment a country needs to make. While this is a burden for most countries in the short term, in the long term it instills a sense of ownership, as seen in the cases of Brazil and Guyana, and carries a commitment to move past the pressures of election cycles and business as usual.
In the end, political willingness to break with old habits and powerful interests was highlighted as the most crucial factor for success across all country cases. It takes optimism and commitment for a state to break away from the entrenched interests driving deforestation, and to regain autonomy by enforcing decisions that regulate large-scale international and domestic investor behavior. And it takes an empowered civil society to hold state and business accountable to their commitments and promises.