• Home
  • Can DRC’s community forests alleviate poverty?

Can DRC’s community forests alleviate poverty?

Woman carrying wood, Yangambi, DRC. Photo by A. Fassio/CIFOR
Posted by

FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Community forestry is an attractive endeavor in the quest to reduce poverty. Multiple countries with tropical forests have placed it at the heart of their rural development strategies, giving local communities the rights to directly manage forests and decide how land will be used.

Underpinning community forestry is the proven belief that local people are best placed to manage the resources on which they rely. Done sustainably, poverty can be alleviated, social mobility enhanced, and the ecological protection of the forest achieved.

But between theory and practice, lies a disconnect.

A new study shows that the benefits don’t always materialize. Community elites are most likely to reap the rewards from such models, risking disillusionment among rural communities. Such is the case of multiple community forest initiatives across Central Africa, found researchers from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the University of Kisangani (UNIKIS).

Scientists found that two community forest pilot sites in northeast Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), failed to produce an increase in people’s real income. “Our research shows that the business case for community forests in DRC remains weak,” said Guillaume Lescuyer, lead author of the study. “In both of our pilot sites, we saw a negative financial turnover over five years. All the productive activities that we analyzed – including logging, hunting and firewood collection – either result in losses or a very low profit.” The researchers therefore advise that community forestry is unlikely to develop into a profitable model in the DRC, unless people are convinced that it will increase their financial and physical capital.

Though financial impact is just one factor to consider when assessing community forests, it is arguably the biggest deciding factor for communities to maintain or discard the model.

The findings from the DRC come at a crucial moment when the Congolese authorities are backing community forestry, implementing several legal and administrative entities. “In 2002 the national forestry law adopted the concept of ‘local community forest’, but it lacked detail until 2016,” explained Ignace Muganguzi, co-author of the study.

“Recently this law has been complimented by a series of decrees that are opening a legal pathway to formalize community forests of up to 50,000 hectares.”

The Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development has also created a sub-department devoted to community forestry, while there is a new government-wide National Strategy for Community Forestry aimed at promoting this model.

Read also: Setting the stage for agroforestry expansion in Eastern Congo

A man cuts down a tree to produce charcoal, Yangambi, DRC. Photo by A. Fassio/CIFOR

Financial failures

Despite the recent rise of community forestry in the DRC, one of the barriers that persists is the exorbitant costs required to set up a community forest. In the selected case studies, USD 100,000 to USD 160,000 is needed to comply with regulations. These fees cover necessary coordination meetings and committees, the creation of boundary lines and maps, baseline studies, and other formal procedures. “The start-up cost is just too high to make this model viable,” stated Lescuyer.

Beyond these expenses, lies high costs of formalizing local economic activities to comply with regulatory requirements. “The payment of all the approvals, taxes and permits that are required to carry out activities such as hunting, chain-sawing, or gathering non-timber forest products, in a legal manner, often prevents small producers from making a profit,” added Lescuyer.

To address these issues, the researchers make two recommendations.

First, new community forest projects should focus on the productive uses of forest resources, creating a business case with financial forecasts. “Short and medium-term livelihood outcomes need to be quantitatively measured, and to continue supporting these projects there should be strong evidence of a significant economic impact,” said Lescuyer. The study shows that to date, no community forest in the DRC has conducted such analyses.

Second, legal constraints should be simplified to reduce the cost of creating and managing community forests. Furthermore, local institutional processes should be streamlined to facilitate operations. “If national regulations continue the same, people might even favor illegal practices to cover these costs,” warned Muganguzi.

A question of ownership

This new research underlines finance as a major obstacle to the success of community forestry in the DRC: the lack of ownership by local populations.

The researchers argue that in most cases, community forestry emerges as a top-down initiative. Because of expensive administrative costs, the creation of community forests is out of reach for local communities, making them dependent on external actors. These days, many initiatives in the DRC are thus subsidized by international funds and run by local or international NGOs. “One of the problems with this situation is that the intervening agencies tend to impose their normative values and sophisticated management tools,” explained Lescuyer. “A bottom-up approach that takes into consideration local realities of communities would be more appropriate. It could lead to more functional systems than those brought in from outside.”

A regional problem

Community forestry became a booming trend among political and technical circles across Central Africa in the 1990s. Cameroon rose as the early-adopter, being the first country in the region to enshrine it in law. The government created formal community forests as early as 1998, which allowed village associations to legally harvest, process, and trade forest resources within an area of up to 5,000 hectares.

Girls carry vegetables, Yangambi, DRC. Photo by A. Fassio/CIFOR

However, the limited financial impact on rural livelihoods, as well as the complicated administrative procedures, have hindered any extensions. At present, only about one percent of Cameroon’s forests is managed by the communities.

“In Cameroon, engagement in community forestry has also been very low, mainly because of the lack of belief that it will raise their standard of living,” explained Lescuyer. “Likewise, in this case the costs of setting up a community forest is too elevated.”

What’s more, previous research unearthed multiple cases where community forests in Cameroon were exploited through subcontracts with logging companies. Mostly medium-sized and informal, they paid cut-rate rents that did not trickle down to improve collective standards of living; the reality of job creation reflected by very low salaries.

Other studies have concluded that revenues from logging are seldom equally distributed- local political, economic and military elites reaping the lion share of profits.

“The failure of community forestry in Cameroon is worrying because the model has been replicated for about 15 years across Central African countries, especially in Gabon, the DRC, and Central African Republic,” said Lescuyer.

Read also: Addressing equity in community forestry: lessons from 20 years of implementation in Cameroon

The essence of community forestry

While CIFOR and UNIKIS’ research focuses on the financial returns of community forests and their impact on livelihoods, the authors acknowledge that there are benefits beyond monetary gains.

Community forests protect biodiversity, which in turn supports food security; they both mitigate and facilitate adaptation to climate change, sucking carbon from the air and retaining natural barriers against intense weather events; they are an important tool for recognizing customary rights; they help secure land tenure and facilitate long-term investment by the involved communities.

“Of course there are other long-term benefits,” recognized Lescuyer, “but so far there aren’t enough examples from Central Africa to say that community forestry can improve the well-being of people without increasing their revenues.”

Lescuyer agrees, believing that the purpose of increasing income should be at the core of community forestry, especially in rural areas where development options are limited. “It is time to ensure that the tens of millions of dollars devoted to supporting this model actually ends to alleviate poverty,” he concluded.

By Ahtziri Gonzalez, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.


This research was supported by the REFORCO and FORETS projects and funded by the European Union.

This work is also part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), the world’s largest research for development program to enhance the role of forests, trees and agroforestry in sustainable development and food security and to address climate change. CIFOR leads FTA in partnership with Bioversity International, CATIE, CIRAD, ICRAF, INBAR and TBI. FTA’s work is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.

  • Home
  • Why peatlands, and why now?

Why peatlands, and why now?

Posted by

FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Peatlands are increasingly playing a bigger role in forest conservation thanks to their extraordinary proficiency at carbon sequestration.

In November the Center for International Forestry Research’s (CIFOR) Forests News reported that the ‘bogs’ had finally been given the spotlight. The newly established International Tropical Peatlands Center (ITPC) is set to open its doors in 2019, to bring ‘researchers, governments, civil society and other stakeholders together to ensure the conservation and sustainable management of peatlands throughout Southeast Asia, the Congo Basin and Peru’.

Here, three scientists from CIFOR – a coordinating partner of the ITPC and longtime peatlands analysist – explain ‘why peatlands, and why now.’

Answers have been written in sic, though minor amendments have been made for easy reading.

Why are peatlands important for biofuel and bioenergy?

Himlal Baral: Peatlands provide a wide range of ecosystem goods and services- for example, climate regulation and water cycling. And they are a great source of biodiversity, as well as ecosystem goods- such as timber and nontimber products, including bioenergy. The biomass produced peatlands can be converted into sustainable energy production. That’s why it’s getting attention as bioenergy.

What are you working on right now?

HB: We are doing quite a few and different projects- but one of the projects is about bioenergy production potential in a variety of landscapes, including peatlands. We are looking at how peatlands can be utilized for sustainable biomass production without damaging their nature and characteristics. The technique is called paludiculture. It involves growing trees or growing things on wetlands conditions, it is an excellent example to utilize peatlands. We are currently developing, testing a wide variety of tree species that can produce bioenergy from peatlands.

Why is the study of peatlands important?

HB: Peatlands are extremely important to ecosystems. They are home to endangered species, rare species, such as orangutans. They are great sequesters of carbon and they provide livelihood opportunities for millions of people living on and around peatlands. So, they are not only for people, but also for nature.

Can you tell us what you’re working on right now?

Dede Rohadi: In leading this project I work with local partners, and our main focus is to understand how the community is using and managing the peatlands. We are trying to identify what other options there are in developing livelihoods other than oil palm, because the problem is it seems that everybody goes into the oil palm business, and we understand there are a lot of negative impacts to the environment because of this expansion. So, we’re trying to develop what are the other options that are more in line with peatland conservation strategies.

What is the relationship between humans and peatlands?

DR: I think it is interesting to understand the behavior of people, especially the farmers who are living around the area. For example, we can understand why the people are interested in expanding the oil palm plantations. Previously they used the peatland for growing paddy, silviculture, lots of fruits on their lands- but it seems because of the market, they turn to oil palm plantations.

Also, some people are selling their lands to other people for oil palm expansion. There is a lot of industry there and the market is good, so people are dragged in because they feel comfortable with oil palm as they have secure income from it. But actually, there are a lot of other commodities that may be prospective for them to develop. But, there are some questions. For example, we need to provide the market channel and also we need to provide them with the knowledge and the skills on how to use or develop these alternative products. That’s what my project is doing.

What are some alternatives?

DR: For example, we can develop on farm-based and off-farm-based options. On farm-based, for example, some commodities such as pineapple. Pineapples grow well in the peatlands and the peatlands don’t need to be drained. In fact some of the people also now plant them, and they have a good market. But, the question is if more people grow this pineapple what will be the market? If the market is saturated then that is an important question for us to develop. And coconut, for example. In one village coconut has been planted by people and up until now they’re still planting coconuts and it has been the main source of their livelihoods. And betel nuts too.

We can also develop off-farm activities such as honeybees, because the people in the area are still collecting wild honey. It’s a good product, and the market is there, but they need to improve the market channel. They need to improve, for example, the quality of the honey and how to also not only collect the honey but also cultivate the honey in the home garden. Because there are different honeys- we can provide them with the knowledge.

Another product is fish, for example. A lot of people are living around the river, which has a high potential for fish industry. Up until now it has not been used optimally- so we can provide the technology for example, on how to process fish into fish products, and add value to their products.

Why did you get into forestry?

Herry Purnomo: I got into forestry first, because I love nature and lots of things related to nature I would like to contribute to. Secondly, forests and forestry matter to our lives, to the sustainability of this planet. Forests can contribute to the economy of this country [Indonesia]. For example, timber production, as well as ecosystem services such as ecotourism, as well as providing lots of benefits to people and local communities.

Can you tell us about your peatlands work?

HP: Now I’m working on a community-based fire prevention and peatland restoration in Riau province in Indonesia. We call this ‘participatory action research’. We try to work with the local community to understand the behavior of peatlands, to reduce the fire evidence, as well as to restore the degraded land.

So the community is not only the object of our work, but also the subject of restoring peatlands. It’s a 15-month project and very interesting actually to understand the peatlands, as well as transforming the local livelihood into more peatland-friendly. We use the theory of change for the current situation – in which people are likely to use fire fir agriculture and peatland, to reduce the fire as well as improve the livelihood of the people there. We’re funded by Temasak and the Singapore Cooperation Enterprise from Singapore.

Why is the study of peatlands important?

HP: Firstly, the fire in 2015- let’s call it a disaster because it produced a lot of toxic haze and people in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore in particular suffered from the burning of the peatlands and forests.

So now we try to do research and science enquiry to provide more sustainable livelihoods by not only investigating, but by providing evidence and an action arena that communities as well as government can do – peatland management without fire. It’s not easy because using fire is common for local communities, but we provide evidence that a community can get benefits by not using fire, but more sustainable agriculture. We believe that good peatland management will happen in Riau in this way.

By Christi Hang, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.


This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), which is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.

This research was supported by Temasak and the Singapore Cooperation Enterprise.

  • Home
  • Are community forests a viable model for the Democratic Republic of Congo?

Are community forests a viable model for the Democratic Republic of Congo?

Posted by

FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Since the second half of the 2000s, several options for implementing community-based forest management in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), like the local community forest concession (LCFC), have been discussed in the country’s technical and political circles. Proposals and pilot testing have increased in the last five years, but the funding of initiatives is often proposed for divergent purposes and taking different approaches. We reviewed current experiences in the Eastern province of the DRC and found that nobody has carried out an estimation of the financial returns of the business models they drew up for/with the communities involved. We therefore conducted a financial feasibility analysis for two case studies, estimating the costs of developing/implementing activities and the benefits expected for the communities within the next five years. Three main conclusions were drawn from the analysis: (1) most activities conducted under the LCFC model deal with rural development, and not with forestry operations per se; (2) several forestry activities such as biodiversity conservation or carbon sequestration are not detailed in the management documents and appear to have little legitimacy for local populations; (3) the two LCFCs show a negative financial performance because the inception and implementation costs are substantially higher than the medium-term profits. Community forestry is unlikely to develop in the DRC unless local people are guaranteed that it will contribute to improving their livelihoods, notably their financial and physical capital. This requires that LCFC initiatives focus on actual productive uses of forest resources, which financial performance is systematically assessed ex ante. A simplification of the legal constraints is also needed to reduce the cost of creating and managing a LCFC.

  • Home
  • Peatlands: From marginal lands to essential ecosystem

Peatlands: From marginal lands to essential ecosystem

Birds perch among mangroves in North Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR
Posted by

FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

If climate change is a global issue, then peatlands are too.

Peatlands, natural areas of the accumulated decayed plant material known as peat, have huge importance as carbon sinks, making them key in limiting global warming. Given this corresponding significance for climate targets, preserving intact peatland and restoring degraded areas are increasingly being recognized as international issues.

A new International Tropical Peatland Center (ITPC) is aiming to become a one-stop shop for countries that encompass tropical peatlands, providing research and knowledge to enable informed decisions on sustainable management of the areas. Its interim secretariat is to be based in Bogor, Indonesia, ahead of the formation of the center itself in the coming year.

“Tropical peatlands are found in more than 80 countries, yet they remain among the least understood and monitored ecosystems in the world, storing 30-40% of global soil carbon deposits, on only 3% of the world’s land surface,” Indonesia’s Minister of Environment and Forestry, Siti Nurbaya Bakar, said during the center’s launch event on Oct. 30, adding that it was crucial to preserve them from destruction and degradation given their importance in mitigating climate change.

Representatives of the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) – both home to extensive areas of tropical peatland – joined together with Indonesia at the event to push forward a sustainable peatland agenda.

Throughout the day’s discussions, several speakers from government, international organizations and research institutions – including the ITPC’s coordinating partners the Indonesian Environment and Forestry Ministry, the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), UN Environment Programme, and the Food and Agriculture of the United Nations – addressed the importance of international collaboration and mutual learning, particularly between countries in the global South.

Speakers also raised capacity strengthening at all levels, as well as community engagement and alternative livelihoods among people currently living on peatland, as key points in implementing sustainable peatland management.

Read also: Hanging in the balance: Preservation, restoration and sustainable management in Indonesian peatlands

Peatland is pictured in Peru. Photo by Rupesh Bhomia/CIFOR

Speaking during a high-level panel on national forest policy and peatland management, Robert Nasi, the Director General of CIFOR – which is the lead center of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) – emphasized the importance of bringing economics into peatland preservation and restoration, stating: “We have absolutely to conserve the peatlands that have been so far preserved […] because it is much more costly to restore than to conserve.”

“What we have now in Indonesia is a result of a decision that was taken 40 years ago to open the peatlands for industrial exploitation,” Nasi added.

Separately, Minister Siti spoke in more detail about Indonesia’s peatland management experience, for which it has enjoyed international recognition in recent years. According to Minister Siti, the country’s experience in managing its over 15 million hectares of peatlands began early last century, when local tribes such as those in Kalimantan managed peatlands in a sustainable manner. Following that was the period of extensive peatland utilization beginning in the 1970s, which saw timber plantations, large-scale agriculture and draining that degraded significant areas.

The present was a “corrective era”, Minister Siti said. Since severe fires and haze in 2015 that focused the world’s gaze on the region’s peatlands, Indonesia has enacted a peatland restoration agency, strengthened a moratorium on new licenses, improved primary forest, and overseen strict enforcement of its policies. It is now also instrumental in the establishment of the ITPC.

A researcher measures tree diameter in a tropical peat swamp forest. Photo by Sigit Deni Sasmito/CIFOR

It is this experience that could benefit countries such as the Republic of the Congo and the DRC, following the discovery in recent years of the world’s biggest single area of peatland in the Congo Basin.

Following a panel discussion on best practices in Indonesian peatlands, including lessons learned, opportunities and challenges, CIFOR Senior Scientist Daniel Murdiyarso – whose work also forms part of FTA – moderated the day’s final panel on international collaboration and experience in peatlands.

Read also: New map reveals more peat in the tropics

During the session, in a pertinent description of community engagement, CIFOR researcher Dede Rohadi outlined the Haze-Free Sustainable Livelihoods project, which is also part of CIFOR’s work on peatlands that links to FTA. The project itself is designed by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and complements a bigger project on the sustainable management of peatland ecosystems in Indonesia, led by the Environment and Forestry Ministry.

A major objective of Haze-Free Sustainable Livelihoods, an action-research project in Riau province, is to find a way to involve communities in peat conservation, Rohadi said. This would help to improve community members’ livelihoods while also remaining in line with peatland conservation strategies.

Communities are an important actor in peatland management, he emphasized, and policies or interventions could fail if the constraints and objectives of communities were ignored. Researchers and decisionmakers must understand community behavior when designing interventions and writing regulations, he added.

In Riau, some communities historically used fire for clearing land, but this did not result in wildfire because at that time the peatland was still wet. Coconut, betel nut and pineapple are among possible alternatives to the oil palm that is often associated with peatland draining, if they can be made adequately financially attractive.

In addition to this action research, CIFOR is also carrying out biophysical research in five of the seven Indonesian provinces currently targeted for restoration efforts, Murdiyarso said, adding that a special issue on peatland challenges containing 12 papers was set to be published soon.

In the past, Indonesia’s peatlands were described as marginal lands, Murdiyarso said. However, they are now considered to be an essential ecosystem. “Now there is a lot of hope when we are talking about peatlands and sustainable development of peatlands,” he added.

From local community livelihoods to global emissions targets, the launch of the ITPC looks set to place peatlands at the forefront of climate discussions.

Read also: Peat fires and toxic haze: The power of perception

By Hannah Maddison-Harris, FTA Communication and Editorial Coordinator.

  • Home
  • Public procurement can boost demand for legal timber in Central Africa

Public procurement can boost demand for legal timber in Central Africa

Posted by

FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

A woman carries wood in Yangambi, DRC. Photo by A. Fassio/CIFOR

Central African governments and their development partners account for a significant proportion of the region’s demand for domestic timber, mostly to meet infrastructure needs in sectors such as education, public works and healthcare. 

This demand is growing, as more development projects are implemented in the region. However, experts say that not enough attention is currently given to the legality of the wood used for development projects, resulting in countries missing out on a crucial opportunity to promote a sustainable, legal supply chain of timber for national consumption.

A recently published policy brief by the Central African Forest Observatory (OFAC) discusses how, until now, the governments and international organizations in the region do not include a legality clause in their calls for tenders for public procurement.

“In the current state of affairs, the states and development actors are contributing indirectly to the informal and illegal practices that prevail in the timber sector in Central Africa,” says Richard Eba’a Atyi, lead author of the policy brief and director of the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) Central Africa hub. “The different actors in the public procurement supply chain are violating the countries’ commitments to processes such as the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan, and the 2008 Sub-Regional Agreement on Forest Control in Central Africa.”

In the policy brief Eba’a Atyi and the contributing authors call for a change in national public procurement policies across the region to enforce public purchases of timber exclusively from legal sources.

Read more: New kid on the block in Indonesia’s timber export industry

MAKING CHANGE

Currently, public procurement of timber follows a certain sequence of events. National governments lead infrastructure projects, often with support from international donors, and award projects via public tender to national or international enterprises, which then carry out the construction work. Most of these companies source their wood from local urban markets supplied by small-scale loggers, who do not take into consideration resource renewal rates. The supply chain is thus informal – and essentially illegal – and is contributing to the deterioration and depletion of Central Africa’s forests.

International donors, in most of the cases, abide by national laws, meaning that here they do not have to ensure that wood is sourced legally for public procurement projects. While some enterprises and donors do have internal operating guidelines that recommend legally sourced timber in their projects, but most of the time these guidelines are not monitored and implemented.

A tree weeps sap after being cut down to produce charcoal in Yangambi, DRC. Photo by A. Fassio/CIFOR

Furthermore, certified or legally sourced wood is often difficult to obtain in Central Africa, either because the industry is not interested in low-profit national markets, or because of the incapacity to meet national demand.

However, attitudes are slowly changing, and governments and development actors are increasingly turning their eyes to the issue. “A few initiatives taken across Central Africa indicate that countries are prepared to promote legally sourced timber in public procurement,” says Guillaume Lescuyer, contributing author of the policy brief, and coordinator of CIFOR’s ESSOR project that aims to boost demand for legal wood in Cameroon.

“The Cameroonian Ministry of Forests and Wildlife (MINFOF), for example, has formed a working group on the issue and is now preparing a draft text on the promotion of legally sourced timber in government contracts.” The Cameroonian government’s demand for timber is calculated to be at least 13,000 cubic meters per year – an amount that can potentially have a very high impact for the betterment of the industry.

Read more: Observatory addresses urgent need to monitor forests in East Africa

LEGAL EFFORTS

Other initiatives across the region can be found in Gabon and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). “In Gabon in 2016, for instance, the Ministry of National Education sought to showcase the quality of Gabonese wood by purchasing 150,000 tables and benches of assumedly legal origin from the Gabon Wood Hub,” highlights Eba’a Atyi. “In the DRC, the Faculty of Sciences at Kisangani University recently sourced certified timber for a infrastructure project with financial support from the European Union.”

These individual initiatives, though relatively small on the regional scale, help create awareness about the issue and need to be encouraged and scaled-up in other countries, the experts say.

In order to require legally sourced wood in public contracts, the authors of the policy brief suggest three options to the national governments in the region. First, governments should make a political statement announcing their intention to promote the exclusive use of legally sourced wood in government contracts. Second, they should issue a legal act – a binding decree, for example, signed by a president or prime minister, or a joint order from national agencies involved in forestry resources management, public contracts and infrastructure – on wood legality in government procurement orders.

Men process wood at a company in Kisangani, DRC. Photo by A. Fassio/CIFOR

And third, they should include a clause on the use of legally sourced timber in public contracting codes, so as to directly target the mandates of providers and suppliers.

Finally, regional cooperation, especially through the Central African Forest Commission (COMIFAC), also offers an opportunity to push for changes in public procurement policies at the intergovernmental level.

“Considering the implementation of the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) and the growing interest in promoting intra-African timber trade, it should be a priority for COMIFAC Member States to urgently prepare and adopt public procurement policies that impose and promote timber from legal sources,” says Eba’a Atyi.

And international partners, he says, should stand ready to help prepare these policies and apply them to their development support actions in Central Africa.

By Ahtziri Gonzalez, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

For more information on this topic, please contact Guillaume Lescuyer at [email protected] or Richard Eba’a Atyi at [email protected].


This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.

This research was supported by the FAO-EU FLEGT Programme, CIRAD, Foret Ressources Management (FRM Ingenerie), and the Catholic University of Louvain (UCL).

  • Home
  • Public procurement can boost demand for legal timber in Central Africa

Public procurement can boost demand for legal timber in Central Africa

Posted by

FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

A woman carries wood in Yangambi, DRC. Photo by A. Fassio/CIFOR

Central African governments and their development partners account for a significant proportion of the region’s demand for domestic timber, mostly to meet infrastructure needs in sectors such as education, public works and healthcare. 

This demand is growing, as more development projects are implemented in the region. However, experts say that not enough attention is currently given to the legality of the wood used for development projects, resulting in countries missing out on a crucial opportunity to promote a sustainable, legal supply chain of timber for national consumption.

A recently published policy brief by the Central African Forest Observatory (OFAC) discusses how, until now, the governments and international organizations in the region do not include a legality clause in their calls for tenders for public procurement.

“In the current state of affairs, the states and development actors are contributing indirectly to the informal and illegal practices that prevail in the timber sector in Central Africa,” says Richard Eba’a Atyi, lead author of the policy brief and director of the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) Central Africa hub. “The different actors in the public procurement supply chain are violating the countries’ commitments to processes such as the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan, and the 2008 Sub-Regional Agreement on Forest Control in Central Africa.”

In the policy brief Eba’a Atyi and the contributing authors call for a change in national public procurement policies across the region to enforce public purchases of timber exclusively from legal sources.

Read more: New kid on the block in Indonesia’s timber export industry

MAKING CHANGE

Currently, public procurement of timber follows a certain sequence of events. National governments lead infrastructure projects, often with support from international donors, and award projects via public tender to national or international enterprises, which then carry out the construction work. Most of these companies source their wood from local urban markets supplied by small-scale loggers, who do not take into consideration resource renewal rates. The supply chain is thus informal – and essentially illegal – and is contributing to the deterioration and depletion of Central Africa’s forests.

International donors, in most of the cases, abide by national laws, meaning that here they do not have to ensure that wood is sourced legally for public procurement projects. While some enterprises and donors do have internal operating guidelines that recommend legally sourced timber in their projects, but most of the time these guidelines are not monitored and implemented.

A tree weeps sap after being cut down to produce charcoal in Yangambi, DRC. Photo by A. Fassio/CIFOR

Furthermore, certified or legally sourced wood is often difficult to obtain in Central Africa, either because the industry is not interested in low-profit national markets, or because of the incapacity to meet national demand.

However, attitudes are slowly changing, and governments and development actors are increasingly turning their eyes to the issue. “A few initiatives taken across Central Africa indicate that countries are prepared to promote legally sourced timber in public procurement,” says Guillaume Lescuyer, contributing author of the policy brief, and coordinator of CIFOR’s ESSOR project that aims to boost demand for legal wood in Cameroon.

“The Cameroonian Ministry of Forests and Wildlife (MINFOF), for example, has formed a working group on the issue and is now preparing a draft text on the promotion of legally sourced timber in government contracts.” The Cameroonian government’s demand for timber is calculated to be at least 13,000 cubic meters per year – an amount that can potentially have a very high impact for the betterment of the industry.

Read more: Observatory addresses urgent need to monitor forests in East Africa

LEGAL EFFORTS

Other initiatives across the region can be found in Gabon and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). “In Gabon in 2016, for instance, the Ministry of National Education sought to showcase the quality of Gabonese wood by purchasing 150,000 tables and benches of assumedly legal origin from the Gabon Wood Hub,” highlights Eba’a Atyi. “In the DRC, the Faculty of Sciences at Kisangani University recently sourced certified timber for a infrastructure project with financial support from the European Union.”

These individual initiatives, though relatively small on the regional scale, help create awareness about the issue and need to be encouraged and scaled-up in other countries, the experts say.

In order to require legally sourced wood in public contracts, the authors of the policy brief suggest three options to the national governments in the region. First, governments should make a political statement announcing their intention to promote the exclusive use of legally sourced wood in government contracts. Second, they should issue a legal act – a binding decree, for example, signed by a president or prime minister, or a joint order from national agencies involved in forestry resources management, public contracts and infrastructure – on wood legality in government procurement orders.

Men process wood at a company in Kisangani, DRC. Photo by A. Fassio/CIFOR

And third, they should include a clause on the use of legally sourced timber in public contracting codes, so as to directly target the mandates of providers and suppliers.

Finally, regional cooperation, especially through the Central African Forest Commission (COMIFAC), also offers an opportunity to push for changes in public procurement policies at the intergovernmental level.

“Considering the implementation of the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) and the growing interest in promoting intra-African timber trade, it should be a priority for COMIFAC Member States to urgently prepare and adopt public procurement policies that impose and promote timber from legal sources,” says Eba’a Atyi.

And international partners, he says, should stand ready to help prepare these policies and apply them to their development support actions in Central Africa.

By Ahtziri Gonzalez, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

For more information on this topic, please contact Guillaume Lescuyer at [email protected] or Richard Eba’a Atyi at [email protected].


This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.

This research was supported by the FAO-EU FLEGT Programme, CIRAD, Foret Ressources Management (FRM Ingenerie), and the Catholic University of Louvain (UCL).

  • Home
  • Can the production of wild forest foods be sustained in timber concessions?

Can the production of wild forest foods be sustained in timber concessions?

Posted by

FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Can the production of wild forest foods be sustained in timber concessions? Logging and the availability of edible caterpillars hosted by sapelli (Entandrophragma cylindricum) and tali (Erythrophleum suaveolens) trees in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Sapelli (Entandrophragma cylindricum) and tali (Erythrophleum suaveolens) are among the most important timber species harvested from Congo Basin forests. They also host edible caterpillars, Imbrasia oyemensis and Cirina forda, respectively, which are important to the nutrition and income of rural and urban populations. This study evaluated the density of these tree species within a 10 km radius around each of 4 villages and in the 2012 annual cutting areas of two timber concessions in the region of Kisangani (DRC). Sapelli and tali trees ≥20 cm dbh and their stumps were identified and measured on 21 five ha plots around each village and 20 five ha plots on each concession. Around villages and on concessions, sapelli trees occurred at densities of 0.048 ± 0.008 harvestable trees (≥80 cm dbh) ha −1 and 0.135 ± 0.019 precommercial trees ha −1. Harvestable tali trees (≥60 cm dbh) were seven times more abundant at 0.347 ± 0.032 ha −1, while pre-commercial tali trees occurred at densities of 0.329 ± 0.033 trees ha −1. Between 25% and 40% of the harvestable sapelli trees had been logged as compared to < 3% of the harvestable tali trees. Production per tree, derived from another study, was extrapolated to estimate caterpillar yields on a half circle of 15,700 ha within 10 km of villages, using these estimates of tree densities. Depending on the village, yields were estimated as 11.6–34.5 Mg year −1 of I. oyemensis from sapelli trees, and 65.8–80.9 Mg year −1 of C. forda from tali trees, an average of 0.74–2.2 kg ha −1 year and 4.2–5.2 kg ha −1 year, fresh weight, respectively (0.23–0.68 kg ha −1 year −1 and 1.3–1.6 kg ha −1 year −1, dry weight, respectively). Harvestable trees yielded more caterpillars, providing most of the C. forda caterpillars. However, because harvestable sapelli trees occurred at low densities, the bulk of I. oyemensis caterpillar production would be hosted on precommercial trees. Logging practices that reject poorly formed or hollow trees and guidelines that call for high minimum diameter limits and retention of seed trees or prohibit logging on slopes or riparian zones, safeguard edible caterpillar production. Multiple resource management for multiple stakeholders would require more deliberate planning and management approaches based on negotiations with local communities and approaches like setting aside collection zones or collection trees that would be protected from logging.

  • Home
  • Development, engagement, higher education and research combine for improved natural resource management

Development, engagement, higher education and research combine for improved natural resource management

Posted by

FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

  • The highly biodiverse Yangambi Biosphere Reserve and its surroundings in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are under pressure from resource extraction and population growth.
  • The FORETS project will contribute to the preservation of the reserve’s ecosystems and to understand local market dynamics.
  • Education of scientists and training, and engagement with local communities will facilitate improved management of forest resources.
  • More sustainable resource management will improve community livelihoods and foster local economic development.
  • Home
  • 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
Posted by

FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

A young man studies in the botanical gardens at the University of Kisangani, Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo by Axel Fassio/CIFOR

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.

Making up for lost time

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.

Goods are seen for sale on the banks of the River Congo between Kinshasa and Lukolela, Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo by Ollivier Girard/CIFOR

Learning tools

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

Further Reading

  • 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).

  • Home
  • 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

Posted by

FTA

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.

Experimental Agriculture, 2017

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0014479716000788


Back to top

Sign up to our monthly newsletter

Connect with us