For the 45 million people living in rural Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) there are few livelihood opportunities beyond the exploitation of forest resources. Widespread poverty, regular food insecurity, post-conflict instability, and rampant unemployment are everyday struggles shoving rural dwellers to unsustainably use their country’s vast natural capital, which should be in principle the driving force for their development and wellbeing.
This conflicting reality represents a real threat to Africa’s most important tropical rainforest, the Congo Basin. This unique ecosystem, 60 percent of which is found in DRC, contributes to biodiversity conservation, carbon storage and mitigates the effects of climate change. And while it remains largely untouched, it is slowly gnawed away by a growing population and demand for natural resources and farmland.
In an attempt to address these issues, the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) is working with the Belgian Royal Museum for Central Africa (RMCA) and Resources and Synergies Development (R&SD) to create tree plantations in previously deforested areas in northern DRC’s Tshopo province. These plantations will produce biomass to supply electricity to the neighboring communities, create new business opportunities and provide much needed jobs for local people.