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New online platform promotes collaboration in the Congo Basin

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Aerial view of the Congo River. Photo by A. Gonzalez/CIFOR

To address the duplication of initiatives in the Congo Basin, the Central African Forest Observatory (OFAC) – whose mission is to provide data to decision makers so they can create evidence-based policies – recently launched an interactive project monitoring platform. The online tool enables access to data and projects in the region, to promote collaboration and put an end to wasted resources.

Conservation of the Congo Basin forests is a critical, but complex undertaking. This massive tropical forest block, the world’s second largest, covers over 200 million hectares and spreads across six countries in Central Africa.

It is home to some of the world’s most critically endangered animals, such as lowland gorillas, as well as over 10,000 endemic tropical plant species.

It also provides livelihoods to 60 million people, who depend on forest resources for food, energy, and jobs – a significant economic contribution in one of the world’s least developed regions. And as if this was not enough, it stores around 46 billion metric tons of carbon, benefitting the whole planet facing climate change.

The importance of this ecosystem means that a multitude of actors, including donors, implementing agencies, national governments, and local organizations, are simultaneously carrying out conservation and development efforts on the ground.

While international interest, availability of funds, and political will are certainly good news, duplications of initiatives do happen. Information gaps and a lack of overarching coordination stand in the way of achieving environmental and development objectives.

“In the last two decades, the region has seen an exponential increase in the number of actors in the forest-environment sector,” explained Quentin Jungers, OFAC’s technical advisor, who leads the IT team behind the platform.

“The new project monitoring platform answers calls for better coordination at the regional and national levels. It will allow organizations and governments to share information, promote collaborations, and ensure harmonization.”

Read also: Can DRC’s community forests alleviate poverty?

A woman carries vegetables in Yangole, DRC. Photo by A. Fassio/CIFOR

A call for a regional approach

Better coordination has long been part of the Congo Basin conservation agenda. In 1999, the Central Africa Forest Commission (COMIFAC), became the birth-child of all ten Central African countries; its mandate to oversee the sustainable management and conservation of the Congo Basin’s forest ecosystems.

In 2005, the finalizing of a first Convergence Plan provided a common strategy for the COMIFAC Member States and international partners to reach sustainable goals.

OFAC officially became part of COMIFAC in 2011, leading to the development of an integrated monitoring and evaluation system just a few years later.

“There are so many initiatives to support the sustainable management of Central Africa’s forests, that sometimes it is difficult for COMIFAC to have a clear vision of all the efforts that contribute to the implementation of our Convergence Plan,” explained Vincent Medjibe, OFAC coordinator at COMIFAC. “We expect this platform to give us an accurate overview of what is happening on the ground”.

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

Digital solutions

The development of the project monitoring platform, the first of its kind in Central Africa, began in 2015 with a basic repository and took over 8 months of intense work to convert into an analytical platform, which was finally ready last year.

“We started by developing a basic database with experts, projects, and capacity building initiatives in the fields of environment and climate change, sustainable management of natural resources, and conservation,” said Donald Djossi, programmer at OFAC. Though he says the real technical challenge was to find the “interconnections” of the projects, so as to provide a comprehensive cross-view of all initiatives.

“Our goal was that all kinds of users, tech-savvy or not, could benefit from it,” added Jungers. Appetite for the platform is clear. Though it was only launched a couple of months ago, it already has an average of 60 users per week.

Users can benefit from a directory and an interactive map showing geolocation and explanation of each initiative, an analysis tab that examines the current state of projects, as well as a report generation tool.

People gather outside the parish of Notre Dame de l’Assomption in Yangambi, DRC. Photo by A. Fassio/CIFOR

Learn more: Go to the project monitoring platform website 

Contributions needed

This platform is a collaborative initiative, and its success will depend on the organizations’ will to share their projects’ information. Until now, over 651 projects have already been submitted, out of which 508 have been validated and published, a significant amount considering that they account for 5 billion euros of funding.

To contribute, it is first necessary to create a user account. This gives organizations access to a private module. Then they can fill out a form for each project. “That’s all is needed,” said Djossi.

After a project is submitted, OFAC’s team reviews the form to ensure that all information is accurate and to avoid duplications. “We need to go through this validation process to ensure that our platform is a reliable source,” explained Jungers.

To encourage organizations to feed the platform, with their user account they also get access to a free monitoring tool that can help them track the progress of their projects. “They can have a report with one click”, said Djossi.

The next step for OFAC is to use the information on this platform to produce a regional publication called “The State of the Projects”, expected in 2020. As a complementary instrument, it will analyze the impact of projects in the Congo Basin in the last 15 years, looking to better integrate them into national and regional environment policies.

“The State of the Projects will help regional policymakers understand what has been done to conserve Central Africa’s forests, and what still needs to be done,” concluded Jungers.

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

This research was supported by the RIOFAC,  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.

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  • Can DRC’s community forests alleviate poverty?

Can DRC’s community forests alleviate poverty?

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

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  • Why peatlands, and why now?

Why peatlands, and why now?

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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.

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

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

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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.

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  • 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
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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.

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

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

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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.

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  • Beyond timber: balancing demands for tree resources between concessionaires and villagers

Beyond timber: balancing demands for tree resources between concessionaires and villagers

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Extensive areas of the Congo Basin forest are allocated to timber concessionaires. These forests also harbour and support village populations, including indigenous Baka people, who depend on forest foods obtained directly from trees (fruits, oils and caterpillars). Most food-producing tree species are harvested by concessionaires for timber. We documented the availability and abundance of three food tree species around four villages and in two neighboring timber concessions in Cameroon. Data was used to determine the importance of timber concessions as sources of food for local people to provide a foundation for governance arrangements that consider local needs for foods from timber trees. Discussions with concessionaires revealed that some of them have voluntarily refrained from extracting timber species of interest to villagers for their nontimber products. This is either to avoid conflict with villagers, or because regulations have been promulgated to safeguard these resources. The interplay between internal village dynamics, regulations and their implementation by forest guards, and the actions of timber concessions create a complex arena for addressing rights to forest resources. This paper provides information on the accessibility and availability of multiple use timber species as a foundation for negotiations and governance arrangements between concessionaires and local communities.

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  • Advancing equity and inclusiveness in forest management and certification

Advancing equity and inclusiveness in forest management and certification

A household in Bolozo, Republic of Congo. Photo by E. Guillaume/CIFOR
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A group of women in Egaba, Republic of Congo. Photo by E. Guillaume/CIFOR

Decision-making mechanisms solely based on externally determined rules could make meaningful involvement of women and marginalized groups difficult.

Paving the way for increased and more meaningful participation of women and marginalized groups in managing forests is a requisite investment in achieving more cohesive and efficient resources governance in the Republic of the Congo. The way that forests are successfully managed depends on the capacity of men and women to come together and collaborate.

Furthermore, both men and women have a right to engage in the public arena, either directly or through legitimate representatives. This is a fundamental aspect of good governance.

Another aspect is the right to be fully informed and organized, including the right to voice their concerns for the best interests of their society in any process that will eventually affect them, their clans and communities. The capacity for men and women to actively take part in the public affairs of their communities is thus essential to achieve cohesion and successful resources management outcomes.

What sparked my interest to examine the level of inclusiveness in decision-making mechanisms in a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified and a non-certified forest management unit (UFA) in the north of the Republic of the Congo — research that was supported by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, and the UK Department for International Development (DFID) — was to understand if externally induced rules of forest governance like the FSC standard had led to meaningful and effective participation of women and marginalized groups at the village level.

Read also: Trees for food security in Eastern Africa

View of the River Congo. Photo by O. Girard/CIFOR

However, at the time of the study, requirements for gender equality and equity did not exist in the FSC standards. Therefore, it is important to note that this study is not simply a box-ticking exercise. Instead, our research focused on examining forest management decision-making mechanisms in four villages, and the perceived barriers to women’s participation in decision-making.

For several weeks, we conducted field focus group discussions and interviews in four villages within the two distinct UFAs of Pokola and Tala-Tala, in Sangha department, in the north of the Republic of the Congo.


Our first finding was that women and the Baka people are underrepresented in forest-related decision-making processes.

This has a significant impact on their capacity to voice their concerns and preferences, as well as to develop self-confidence and public speaking skills. Secondly, even when they are represented through a representative or a leader, their voices don’t always count. It counts when there are internally driven participation mechanisms in which women and the Baka people hold a critical or strategic role within their community.

Also, findings revealed that women and men of the villages in the non-certified UFA are actively engaged in local groups and internal decision-making mechanisms.

“Women are often too busy with domestic chores to attend our meetings, and even when they attend, they do not speak up,” said the Council President of Ouésso.

By contrast, the villages of the certified UFA are characterized by externally-induced processes monopolized by Bantu men, social and ethnic conflict, lack of collective action and cultural norms that are difficult to challenge.

Our research suggested that an internally driven community group system, with members who share a common goal of sustainable development, forest management or another interest, can be a successful engine for cohesion and collective action that is necessary for certification.

Increasing women’s representation in forest management committees alone may not be sufficient to encourage full and influential female participation, since such a positive discriminatory instrument does not directly address deeply entrenched circumstances, attitudes or psychological barriers to participation.

Also, quotas do not guarantee that elected women will effectively promote other women’s interests, and it is unclear what the common benefit might be without a strong women’s movement as witnessed in the villages of the non-certified UFA.

A household in Bolozo, Republic of Congo. Photo by E. Guillaume/CIFOR


If equity and inclusiveness can be improved through the way that forests are managed, it is important to understand that men, women, boys and girls experience forests and resources differently depending on their background.

Ask yourself about your own identity. No individual can be defined by his or her gender alone — one must also consider his or her ethnic background, education, age, marital status, social status, job, etc. All these diverse factors of one’s identity affect who one is and his or her relationships with others. This is why the best approach to capture the unique experience of men, women, boys and girls in forest societies should be multidimensional.

At the policy level, this means addressing the internal and external barriers faced by women and marginalized groups, as well as their capacity for agency. This would require a multi-level approach, encouraging the development of internally driven initiatives to challenge the established barriers to meet the needs of externally driven forest management processes.

This way, endogeneity is maximized to meet the exogenous needs of the FSC mechanisms. Such initiatives could enhance the collective and individual capacity for participation, cooperation and eventually leadership by providing a safe interface for women to gain experience before taking on more active roles in externally driven mixed-gender groups like the Local Development Fund and other committees.

Additionally, creating or reinforcing the establishment of collaborative initiatives, such as women’s associations, self-help groups or cooperatives that value women’s skills and experiences (i.e. handicrafts, backyard poultry, local forest products, etc.), could be an effective way to foster a sense of ownership and collective efforts as demonstrated by our recent study.

Investing in participation is a necessary step to achieving global gender equality and the democratic governance of forests.

Further research is required to consider the evolution of the status of women and marginalized groups prior to and after certification. Questions regarding the need for endogenous approaches to increase participation are likely to arise in the future.

Powerful standards like the FSC, which have already achieved great social advancement, will need a robust and enhanced approach toward learning about the gender and diversity aspects and needs of forest certification.

Such developments imply a potentially important role for gender-related commitments across the FSC policies, standards and criteria, as well as in the Congolese forest sector, particularly since the national government has pledged its commitment to international gender-related standards and regulations.

By Eulalie Guillaume, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.

For more information on this topic, please contact Eulalie Guillaume at eulalieg@gmail.com or Esther Mwangi at e.mwangi@cgiar.org.

This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.  We would like to thank all donors who supported this work through their contributions to the CGIAR Fund.

This research was supported by the Department for International Development (DFID).

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  • Peatlands: The view from space

Peatlands: The view from space

The Congo River is pictured in Kisangani, Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo by Ollivier Girard/CIFOR
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The sky is seen above the forest canopy after logging in the Unamat forest, Madre de Dios, Peru. Photo by Marco Simola/CIFOR

How can satellites help map and monitor critical peat landscapes?

Dense, damp and often remote, tropical peatlands are notoriously difficult to map and monitor on the ground. So how about from space?

New methods using satellite data are finding increasing success in assessing the extent, distribution and even the volume of peatlands around the world, as well as monitoring threats to their sustainable management.

Some of the latest developments in this area were presented by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and partners at a side event during the UNFCCC Bonn Climate Change Conference held in Germany from May 8-18.

The findings continue to challenge widely-held assumptions about where peat is located, how much of it is out there, and how it can be conserved and sustainably managed to contribute to efforts on global climate change mitigation and adaptation.


Frank Martin Seifert from the European Space Agency (ESA), a cohost of the side event in Bonn, shared the ongoing work of the European Copernicus satellite program, which currently operates a fleet of dedicated satellites for environment and civil security monitoring.

Five of the satellites, known as ‘Sentinels’, are already in orbit, imaging the surface of the Earth. The resulting data are available for free and open access by anyone, anywhere in the world.

But what about peat, which mainly lies below the Earth’s surface? Can a satellite detect that?

Watch: More peat in the tropics: Implications for climate change

“Most peat is not directly visible from space,” Seifert says. “But you can still derive a lot of the characteristics of peatlands, and any critical changes, from satellite images.”

Two of the Sentinels are particularly useful for mapping wetlands and peatlands, Seifert says. Sentinel-1 is a radar mission with cloud-penetrating, night-and-day imaging capability, while Sentinel-2, the high-resolution optical mission of the Copernicus program, can map the entire land surface of the Earth in a matter of days.

Together, these two satellites can detect extent, moisture and water levels of wetlands and peatlands, as well as threats to their environmental integrity, such as land conversion for agriculture and urban developments, logging in swamp forests, degradation and damage caused by fires.

As global efforts move toward conservation and restoration of peatlands, the data will also be useful for monitoring, reporting and verifying successes on the ground.

The Congo River is pictured in Kisangani, Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo by Ollivier Girard/CIFOR


As part of the Global Peatlands Initiative (GPI) launched at the 2016 Global Landscapes Forum in Marrakesh, ESA is developing and demonstrating methodologies for mapping and monitoring peatlands globally, and deriving best practices for use in the assessment of peatlands.

Demonstrations will take place in GPI’s three pilot areas — Indonesia, the Congo Basin and Peru — and further areas in the temperate and boreal zone. The findings will be useful for local, national and global efforts to conserve, manage and restore peatlands, as well as to tackle climate change.

In Indonesia, for example, satellite data can support ongoing efforts to better manage the country’s critical peatlands.

At the local level, peatlands in Indonesia support livelihoods and regulate essential ecosystem services. But draining, burning and conversion of peatlands for agriculture and other purposes is threatening the sustainability of the relationship between peat and people. Conversion and burning of peatlands are also a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, posing an increased threat of climate change.

Read also: Eyes on the livelihoods of peatland communities

The national government has responded by forming a Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG). But this body will need solid data to carry out its mandate and track its progress. So where will it find the information it needs?

“Satellite data has the advantage of providing a panoptic overview of an area, as well as indicators of threats,” Seifert says. “This makes it easier to control; easier to see what’s happening.”

The Sentinel-1 satellite was able to pick up areas burned by forest fires in Indonesia during the El Niño crisis of 2015. By combining this data with international peat inventories and national data on forest cover, researchers were able to calculate an estimate of the total greenhouse gas emissions from the fires.

The issues involved in managing Indonesia’s peatlands were further discussed in a new infobrief from CIFOR shared at the side event in Bonn.


Combined with ground data and modelling, satellites can help to ensure consistency and transparency of data, enabling international comparisons. ESA is also sensitive to the demands of countries to manage their own resources using their own data, and making their own assessments.

The Copernicus satellite data is available for free and open access, but capacity is needed to interpret and analyze it. Data analysis toolboxes can help build this capacity – for example, a new toolbox will be released later this year on wetland inventories and habitat mapping in Africa, to manage wetlands, assess threats and detect changes.

CIFOR and partners have also begun to develop data toolboxes, such as the Global Wetlands map, the CarboScen land-use scenario simulator and the Indonesia Peatland Network Toolbox, for managing peatlands in relation to climate change.

But even with these advanced tools at hand, further research will always be needed at the ground level to see how dynamics play out in the landscape.

“The challenge is how to bring these approaches together,” Seifert says.

By Catriona Croft-Cusworth, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

For more information on this topic, please contact Daniel Murdiyarso at d.murdiyarso@cgiar.org.

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

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  • Partnership increases number of academically trained foresters in DR Congo from 6 to 160 in just ten years

Partnership increases number of academically trained foresters in DR Congo from 6 to 160 in just ten years

The DR Congo has the second largest tropical forest area in the world. Photo by Ollivier Girard/CIFOR
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003720One of the successful academic partnerships under the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) is the collaboration with the University of Kisangani in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). As recent as 2005, the DRC counted just six people with an educational qualification higher than a Bachelor’s degree in forestry and related disciplines who were actively involved in research. We asked Christian Amani, a former student from DRC who now works as a scientific adviser for the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), to tell us about the partnership from his perspective.

How did the collaboration between Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the University of Kisangani come about?

The collaboration between CIFOR and the University of Kisangani dates back to the years 2006-2007. The momentum for this collaboration came from a survey conducted by CIFOR and its partners including the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). This survey aimed to assess the national forestry skills in a country that is home to the second largest rainforest in the world with some 86 million hectares: DR Congo.

Of course, that survey revealed the country urgently needed to invest in capacity building in order to achieve sustainable management of its forests. This is how the capacity development by CIFOR started.

The University of Kisangani was selected to harbour these programs based on its experience in training scientists in the field of Biology and its strategic location within the Central Congo Basin.

The DR Congo has the second largest tropical forest area in the world. Photo: Ollivier Girard/CIFOR
The DR Congo has the second largest tropical forest area in the world. Photo: Ollivier Girard/CIFOR

How has the partnership evolved since 2011 when FTA started?

Since the beginning of the partnership, nearly 160 Congolese students have successfully attended the capacity development program, training people at both Master’s and PhD levels. Candidates have to go through a selection process, which is launched nationwide in the media and other available communication channels.

The very first project (REAFOR) from 2007 to 2010 mainly focused on agricultural and forestry researchers and trained 35 MSc students and 12 PhD students. This was then perceived as a historical achievement in my country. Under the second project (REFORCO) from 2009 to 2013, focused on forestry research, 39 students received a MSc degree and 18 were awarded PhDs.

The ongoing Forests and Climate Change in Congo (FCCC) started in 2012, funded by the EU’s Global Climate Change Alliance, and will end in December 2016. Overall 44 MSc and 11 PhD students were enrolled in the program.

Also read: A new generation of forest managers in the Democratic Republic of Congo

The bulk of the trained students is recruited by Congolese universities and other national institutions that focus on scientific research. They did this in order to pass on the knowledge they’ve acquired to the next generation of forestry students.

The ongoing FCCC project is a bit different from the previous two capacity development programs because its activities go beyond the central Congo Basin and the University of Kisangani. It has a second component with activities in the Virunga National Park’s landscape.

Many partners, including the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation (ICCN), CIRAD, the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Virunga Foundation, work together in order to help restore the highly degraded lands within the Park and plant trees outside the Park. The goal is to mitigate the pressure on the Park in this densely populated area where access to energy is a major issue.

One of the PhD students, Prosper Sabongo is measuring a Funtunia Africana in the Forest Reserve near the village of Masako, Kisangani, Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo: Ollivier Girard/CIFOR
One of the PhD students, Prosper Sabongo is measuring a Funtunia Africana in the Forest Reserve near the village of Masako, Kisangani, Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo: Ollivier Girard/CIFOR

What is the most important achievement of the partnership?

Thanks to the project, the number of Congolese scientists has increased significantly. Many of the candidates are still very young which makes me very hopeful for the future. Training programs are of high quality and meet international standards given that many international scientists are involved in teaching and supervising research.

For the first time in the academic history of the country, we are able to get highly qualified scientists with a much broader and updated view of the forestry sector, which was previously considered functioning as a silo. These newly trained scientists bring to the country a holistic approach, combining both biophysical research and social sciences, thanks to the two major fields of studies: “Man and the Forest” and “Forest and the Environment”.

The current FCCC project helped bring major improvements to the university program by also reforming the curricula.

Firstly, the university introduced an approach called teaching binome systems, which means that, whenever possible, two teachers, an international expert and a Congolese counterpart, were involved in a given course in order to reinforce collaboration.

Secondly, the students received additional English classes and annual Science Week sessions to complement the formal courses. The teaching staff at the University of Kisangani are offered opportunities to attend international conferences and training courses worldwide.

And, to help reach sustainability, the university infrastructure was upgraded by rehabilitating existing and building new classrooms, by securing electricity supply, and improving the ICT systems including the local electronic library.

Click to read: Forests in post-conflict Democratic Republic of Congo: analysis of a priority agenda
Click to read: Forests in post-conflict Democratic Republic of Congo: analysis of a priority agenda

What is your own story in this?

I was one of the people who were granted a PhD scholarship under the very first CIFOR project in DR Congo. The grant allowed me to conduct my PhD research in some forests located in the central Congo Basin where I tried to understand the impact of edaphic heterogeneity on vegetation features in those ecosystems.

At the end my PhD program in Brussels, Belgium, I was fortunate to maintain contacts with some of the CIFOR scientists and was therefore invited to teach in the MSc courses during the second CIFOR project REFORCO at the University of Kisangani.

In 2013, I applied for a scientific adviser position at CIFOR under the FCCC project and got the job. Apart from teaching at the ongoing Master’s program and co-supervising MSc and PhD students at the University of Kisangani, my position allows me to interact with research partners working in the Virunga National Park’s landscape, which again inspires my teaching at the university.

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  • America’s legacy in its second term as facilitator of the Congo Basin Forest Partnership

America’s legacy in its second term as facilitator of the Congo Basin Forest Partnership

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FTA communications

Photo: Olliver Girard/CIFOR
In addition to being an important vehicle for forest management in Central Africa, the Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP) also bolsters local capacity-building. Photo: Olliver Girard/CIFOR

By Denis Sonwa, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

During the first term of the U.S. leadership of the newly created Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP) from 2003 to 2005, the foundations were set for the institution to play an important role in the management of forests and natural resources in Central Africa.

Established by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell in Johannesburg in 2002, the CBFP has worked for more than a decade to create strong institutions and policies in Central Africa in order to address climate change impacts and threats to biodiversity.

The focus during America’s second term leading the CBFP from 2013 to 2015 was to address governance challenges, emerging threats and strategic new alliances amid a shifting global agenda.

Global concerns and agreements are continuing to shape the management of natural resources in Central Africa. This includes the move from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the landmark United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris, and the realization of the Aichi Declaration of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

It is in such a context that the U.S.-led CBFP provided objectives in March 2013 to support: 1) clear and concerted African leadership, 2) actions to address critical threats to biodiversity and forests, 3) full participation in efforts to adapt to and combat climate change, and 4) effective institutions, regulatory regimes and governance to address forests and wildlife.

The July 2015 CBFP Conference of Partners in Yaoundé was an opportunity to revisit these objectives and looked to the future of sustainable forest and natural resources management in Central Africa.

Academic success

In order to enhance leadership in Central Africa, one achievement has been the creation of the CBFP Academic Consortium, a network that links international universities (mainly American, but poised to grow quickly) to local universities and other institutions in the region, with the goal to support research and capacity building. This move supports the Network of Environmental and Forest Training Institutions in Central Africa (RIFEEAC), which has been a critical platform under the management of the late Dr. Ibrahim Sambo.

For the past two years, CIFOR has continued capacity building in post-conflict context through the Master’s and Ph.D. programs to elevate research institutions and universities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). During this time, the University of California, Los Angeles completed an important milestone by creating the Congo Basin Institute (CBI) housed at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Yaoundé-Cameroon. The CBI will train Africans and Americans in multidisciplinary research and offer access to world-class facilities. To consolidate the region’s research agenda, CIFOR has started to bring together the Research institutions that will need to work closely with RIFEEAC.

With the aim of capacity building, the academic consortium is expected to increase its focus beyond biodiversity conservation and to recruit academic institutions from Europe and Asia. The post-conflict research and university support process initiated by CIFOR in DRC needs to be extended to the Central African Republic, and the consideration given to youth at the regional level needs to be expanded to the national and sub-national levels.

A recent CIFOR study under the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry shows that youth at the local level are often not consulted during governance planning and decision-making processes. In addition, African leadership needs to broaden its considerations beyond biodiversity conservation to consider the recently agreed upon SDGs.

Looming large

Overcoming threats to biodiversity and forests is the primary aim of the CBFP. In addition to the well-established threats from agriculture and poaching, illegal trans-boundary wildlife trafficking is linked to other security issues, and has emerged as a compelling new threat. Moving beyond the traditional protected areas network, the U.S. is supporting the extension of the Wildlife Enforcement Network (WCN) from the horn of Africa to the heart of the continent.

The region hosted an international conference on the illegal exploitation and trade in African Wildlife in Brazzaville where these issues were discussed with leaders from across the continent. The idea of trust funds was presented during the 15th CBFP conference of partners in Yaoundé as a potential option to sustain biodiversity conservation. And, CIFOR continues to support research findings on bushmeat, moving the problem from a wildlife conservation issue to one of food security in order to assure protein for local communities living within forest landscapes. Conflict and post conflict situations prevailing in certain parts of the heart of Africa will continue to fuel the threats to biodiversity and forests.

We must find solutions to these crises. Increasing research attention on zoonosis such as Ebola needs to happen. Sustaining the livelihoods of smallholders living in forest landscapes also needs to be part of the solution to protecting biodiversity and forests.

Expanding the scope of the CBFP

Since the first U.S. facilitation of the CBFP in the early 2000s, attention to climate change has increased. In 2009, through the Global Climate Change initiative, the U.S. signaled its interest in helping African countries prepare for extreme weather and climate events, develop clean and affordable systems and reduce deforestation in the Congo Basin and elsewhere in Africa.

Since President Barack Obama’s objective of reducing deforestation dovetailed with biodiversity protection, the U.S. has been supporting the Central Africa Regional Program for the Environment (CARPE) as well as the Central African Satellite Forest Observatory (OSFAC) as vehicles to address the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) agenda in the region. Assessing and protecting forest habitats and resources have thus gained more importance in the CARPE and OSFAC initiatives.

REDD+ responses in the region have hence been mainly on some pilot projects but also on MRV (Monitoring Reporting and Verification) process. CIFOR established the first GHG (Green House Gaze) lab in Central Africa. Partners of the CBFP Support countries of COMIFAC in developing their INDC (Intended Nationally Determined Contribution) in the perspective of UNFCCC COP 21of Paris. Adaptation to climate change did not meet the same donor attention as REDD+. Nevertheless, adaptation is now part of the 10 years convergence plan of COMIFAC.

Focusing on institutional effectiveness has resulted in the revitalization of key groups within the Central Africa Forests Commission (COMIFAC). New private sector and agricultural institutions have joined the CBFP since 2013, and the ten-year convergence plan (2015-2025) has been published. The State of the Forest Report 2013 was published with key findings on emerging threats, and a specialized state of the forest report on protected areas was released in 2015.

The emphasis on highlighting local leaders is an innovation that all partners can benefit from, and will hopefully strengthen the coordination and resolve of the Conference on Dense and Humid Forest Ecosystems of Central Africa (CEFDHAC) to continue to play a key role in local governance of forest resources.

Expecting that CBFP will continue to strengthen COMIFAC and its constituencies (including its technical groups and platforms), it is hoped that coverage will be expanded to topics such as livelihoods, agriculture, capacity building, water and energy in the forest landscapes of Central Africa.

In July 2015, when the announcement was made regarding the transition of CBFP’s leadership to the European Union (EU), it was clear that the second term of U.S. facilitation spurred new actions and pathways.

In 2016, the EU have the challenge of defining a new road map for the CBFP, which is eagerly awaited by all partners.

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  • Setting the stage for agroforestry expansion in Eastern Congo

Setting the stage for agroforestry expansion in Eastern Congo

Entrance to the Virunga National Park, Rutshuru, North-Kivu, DRC. Photo by E. Smith Dumont
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Entrance to the Virunga National Park, Rutshuru, North-Kivu, DRC. Photo by E. Smith Dumont
Entrance to the Virunga National Park, Rutshuru, North-Kivu, DRC. Photo by E. Smith Dumont

By Joan Baxter, originally published at ICRAF’s Agroforestry World Blog

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.

Looking back and learning…

Smallholder farmers in Lubero Territory in North-Kivu Province, DRC, cultivate steep and heavily degraded slopes resulting in low agricultural productivity. Photo by E. Smith Dumont/ICRAF
Smallholder farmers in Lubero Territory in North-Kivu Province, DRC, cultivate steep and heavily degraded slopes resulting in low agricultural productivity. Photo by E. Smith Dumont/ICRAF

The workshop was the last of three held in the region as part of the project, Forests and Climate Change in the Congo (FCCC), funded by the European Union and led by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). The agroforestry component of the FCCC project, led by ICRAF, was a part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.

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.

Farmers working with youth conservation group JEAN experiment with passion fruit and Grevillea robusta in, Musienene, Lubero, North-Kivu. Photo by E. Smith Dumont
Farmers working with youth conservation group JEAN experiment with passion fruit and Grevillea robusta in, Musienene, Lubero, North-Kivu. Photo by E. Smith Dumont

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

The local NGO, PACOPAD, works with schools to promote planting of passion fruit and tree tomatoes, aiming to grow vitamin-rich fruit and improve nutrition. Photo by Subira Bonhomme.
The local NGO, PACOPAD, works with schools to promote planting of passion fruit and tree tomatoes, aiming to grow vitamin-rich fruit and improve nutrition. Photo by Subira Bonhomme.

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.

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.
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.

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:  e.smith@cgiar.org

Workshop report: http://www.worldagroforestry.org/output/north-kivu-report-workshop-drc

More about ICRAF’s “research in development” approach can be found in these two blogs: One small change of words – a giant leap in effectiveness! and For every tree a reason — research “in” rather than “for” agroforestry development

More about the FCCC project can be found in this blog: Outside a national park, agroforestry helping to save forests inside the park.

More about the technical agroforestry guide developed for North Kivu as part of the FCCC project: Beyond eucalyptus woodlots: what’s on the agroforestry menu for communities around Virunga? The technical guide (available in French only) is available here: Guide technique d’agroforesterie pour la selection de la gestion des arbres au Nord-Kivu

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  • From the Congo to the Amazon, hunters speak the same language

From the Congo to the Amazon, hunters speak the same language

Research suggests hunters in the Congo Basin face similar issues to hunters elsewhere. Photo: Ollivier Girard / CIFOR.
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By Barbara Fraser, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

Although continents apart, hunters in the forests of Africa and Latin America can learn from each other’s experiences in wildlife management and the use of bushmeat, according to experts from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

“In both the Congo and the Amazon, millions of people depend on wild species for food, and hunting and fishing provide a large percentage of nutrients,” said John Fa, senior research associate at CIFOR and coordinator of the Bushmeat Research Initiative.

In addition to hunting to feed their families, hunters in both the Congo and the Amazon Basins sell some of the wild meat they catch. The income provides a buffer against crop failures or other economic crises, as well as money for household expenses, health care or school fees.


But wildlife management is crucial to make sure that hunting—or rather, overhunting—does not have excessive negative consequences for ecosystems, Fa said.

For example, overhunting of a certain animal species could reduce the scattering of the seeds of plants on which it feeds, gradually decreasing the number of those plants and, therefore, the food supply.

“Changing the vegetation changes the food supply, which affects the animal species that can survive in that landscape,” Fa said.

Overhunting can be controlled if hunters know how much game their communities are harvesting, said Nathalie Van Vliet, a senior researcher at CIFOR.

“The problem is that hunters know how much they or their neighbors harvest, but not what others harvest, so they don’t know how much the community harvests as a whole,” she said.


Community monitoring can fill that gap. In parts of Africa and the Amazon, hunters are armed not only with shotguns, but also with notebooks or cell phones to record information about where and what they hunt and conditions in the forest.

In Namibia, where hunting—including trophy hunting—is an important source of both income and food for communities, game guards keep detailed records that allow community conservancy committees to monitor impacts and adjust quotas, according to Greenwell Matongo of WWF Namibia.

Matongo was among a group of researchers, government officials and hunters who met in Leticia, Colombia, in October 2015, to discuss regulatory changes for legalizing the sale of bushmeat in Colombia.

Hunters in the Ticoya Indigenous Reserve or resguardo near Leticia, along the Amazon River where the borders of Colombia, Brazil and Peru converge, are experimenting with a cell phone app to help them track wildlife.

By becoming citizen scientists, hunters gather data that are valuable to their communities and to researchers, said Brian Child, associate professor in the geography department and the Center for African Studies at the University of Florida.

“People love it—it’s so empowering. They love learning, they love doing graphs, they love understanding what the data are saying, they love presenting it back to communities,” Child said of community-based wildlife monitoring.

“That’s where the real gain is—in the communities themselves becoming paraprofessionals and collecting, analyzing and responding to data,” he added.


Although both the Amazon and Congo Basins include expanses of tropical forest that is home to bushmeat hunters, the two regions differ in some significant ways.

The Congo Basin has less than half as much dense forest—1.6 million square kilometers, compared to 3.9 million square kilometers in the Amazon—and more than twice as many inhabitants as the Amazon.

Research in the past seemed to indicate that substantially more bushmeat is consumed in the Congo Basin than the Amazon. According to one rough estimate from 2010, bushmeat consumption in the Congo basin totaled about 3.2 million tons in one year, compared to just under 1 million tons in the Amazon.

But that estimate and others like it are extrapolated from relatively little data, some of which is old, Van Vliet said. More recent studies show that people continue to consume bushmeat even after moving to cities from rural areas, but further research is needed to understand how consumption patterns change, she said.

Community wildlife management is crucial for adapting to changing circumstances, said Van Vliet, who works with hunters in Colombia and Gabon who are designing hunting management plans.

“The hunters in Gabon realized that they needed to set limits on the hunting of partially protected species in their area,” she said. “The question was where to set the limit, because they did not have data showing how much would be sustainable.”

Van Vliet suggested an adaptive management plan, which would begin by setting the limit at the amount currently being harvested. The hunters would then monitor the impacts and adjust the plan as necessary.

“The problem was that no one knew how much they harvested as a community,” she said. “A community monitoring system provides important information to fill in those gaps.”

The hunters in Gabon—who set a limit of 30 bush pigs a year, based on data showing that they had hunted 28 in 2014—are using a monitoring system similar to one used by hunters in the Ticoya resguardo, which is in the southernmost corner of Colombia, near the Amazon River.


Van Vliet would like the two groups of hunters to be able to learn from each other’s experiences.

“They face similar challenges,” she said. “I think there are fewer differences between a hunter in Gabon and a hunter in the Amazon than a hunter in Gabon and a city dweller in Gabon.”

While meeting with hunters during a recent trip to Gabon, Van Vliet received messages from hunters in the Ticoya resguardo via the smartphone app WhatsApp, and began to think about ways in which the two groups might be able to communicate.

“The problem is language, but they could exchange photos,” she said.

The hunters in Gabon were especially interested in how the hunters in Colombia managed fruiting tree species to attract certain animals.

“They said they felt wildlife was farther away now than in their grandparents’ day,” she said of the Gabon hunters. “They said that could be due to hunting or to logging, which sometimes removes trees that bear fruit.”

The African hunters were intrigued by the idea of planting some of those tree species closer to their villages to attract animals, as communities in the Ticoya resguardo had done.

“I think these exchanges are very useful,” Van Vliet said. “I learn a lot from looking at these different situations, and I think they would, too.”

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  • A new generation of forest managers in the Democratic Republic of Congo

A new generation of forest managers in the Democratic Republic of Congo

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By Fai Collins, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

The Democratic Republic of Congo has the second-largest swath of rainforests in the world. Youth, who comprise more than half of its population, will need to play a critical role in forestry research and conservation to preserve these resources. OllivierGirard/CIFOR
The Democratic Republic of Congo has the second-largest swath of rainforests in the world. Youth, who comprise more than half of its population, will need to play a critical role in forestry research and conservation to preserve these resources. OllivierGirard/CIFOR

In the tropical woodlands of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), on the banks of the deepest river in the world, the University of Kisangani is working to ensure better management of forests for a better future.

In 2013, the university celebrated its 50th anniversary with the launch of a new project – Forests and Climate Change in the Congo – which is boosting quality postgraduate training in forest-related disciplines. This initiative is taking place in a country that currently faces a serious lack of trained personnel in the sector.

As recent as 2005, the DRC counted just six people with an educational qualification higher than a Bachelor’s degree in forestry and related disciplines who were actively involved in research. This is clearly incongruous, given that the country is not only the largest in size and population in the entire Congo Basin, but it also has the second-largest swath of rainforests in the world with some 86 million hectares in area. What’s more, it accounts for more than half of the total remaining rainforests in the Central Africa region.

But years of political turbulence have left scars on the country’s human capital. Political instability has not only slowed down government machinery, but has also led to a serious brain drain as manpower elopes to more caring arms.

Prosper Sabongo a PHD student measures the circumference of a Funtunia Africana in the forest reserve near the village of Masako. Kisangani, Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo: Ollivier Girard/CIFOR
Prosper Sabongo a PHD student measures the circumference of a Funtunia Africana in the forest reserve near the village of Masako. Kisangani, Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo: Ollivier Girard/CIFOR

Education did not just mark time, but was almost abandoned. According to the Center for Universal Education, the allocation for education in the DRC was just one percent of the national budget in 1990.

As a result, there has been a significant lack of skills and knowledge in many domains in the postwar period. The forestry, agricultural and higher education sectors were among the hardest hit. As the country recovers from the doldrums of war, there is a need to harness and build national capacity to help local communities, the private sector and the state to pick up steam.


To rebuild a vibrant educational sector, international partners and governments have come to the aid of the DRC. One pillar of the government’s post-conflict education strategy has been to improve the quality and relevance of education to local realities, and that includes addressing the forestry sector.

The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) has been at the government’s side since 2005 improving governance by supporting teaching and training in various forest domains.

DRC needs a new generation of forest managers. Photo: Ollivier Girard/CIFOR
DRC needs a new generation of forest managers. Photo: Ollivier Girard/CIFOR

Supported by the European Union and other international organizations, CIFOR has been carrying out long-term capacity building programmes at the University of Kisangani by training Master’s and Ph.D. students in Biodiversity and Forestry Management. From REAFOR to FCCC projects, more than 97 Master’s and 13 Ph.D. students have been trained in these areas.

This year, 42 Master’s and ten Ph.D. students are enrolled at the University of Kisangani in forest-related domains. Some of the research proposals are highly innovative, such as the use of drones to monitor anthropogenic activity in protected areas. These emerging experts will help their country build the academic skills and knowledge needed to ensure sustainable forest management, good governance and the maintenance of biodiversity and protected areas.


The University of Kisangani has been chosen as the seat of training for tomorrow’s researchers and forest managers by virtue of its location in the Orientale province, which is in the heart of dense, humid forest.

This location is a nexus between theory and practice in forestry and biodiversity research. It hosts four key forest sites in Luki, Maskao, Yoko and Yangambi, as well as a botanic garden nurtured to sustain on-campus research and teaching.

Facilities like these have seen the University of Kisangani emerge as a leading higher education institution for forestry, biodiversity conservation and sustainable natural resource management in DRC. According to Professor Faustin Toengaho Lokundo, Rector of the University, the curricula must be tailored to local realities in order to serve the needs of the Congolese society.

Scientist Francois Bapeamoni examines a African Pygme Kingfisher (Ispidina picta) on Yoko forest reserve, Kisangani, Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo: Ollivier Girard/CIFOR
Scientist Francois Bapeamoni examines a African Pygme Kingfisher (Ispidina picta) on Yoko forest reserve, Kisangani, Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo: Ollivier Girard/CIFOR

To ensure quality education and research, a myriad of techniques has been used in the curricula. According to Robert Nasi, Director of Research at CIFOR, the strategy used for improving governance through capacity building hinges on two axes: developing an innovative Master’s curriculum and developing an international Ph.D. program tailored to national concerns.

In order to ensure quality teaching and improved access to scientific literature, an online library service has been introduced, with more than 10,000 documents that supplement the existing university library.

A more enabling learning and teaching environment has also been created with renovated lecture halls and offices, improved field and forest survey equipment, and on-campus internet access.

In total, 11 students have already graduated with Ph.D.s, while 77 have graduated with Master’s degrees in Biodiversity and Forest Management, with another 42 underway.

CIFOR has not limited the initiative in DRC to university students alone. In June 2015, 14 science journalists and newspaper editors from media organizations across the country converged at the University of Kisangani to work together on improving their writing and reporting skills on issues related to forestry and the environment. For two days, media practitioners and scientists discussed ways to keep the public better informed on newsworthy topics about the environment.

Such initiatives are safe investments in youth, who now comprise more than 58% of the Congolese population. They will play a critical role in helping the DRC achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and be counted among the emerging African economies by 2035.

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  • Modeling future deforestation and the impact on biodiversity in the Congo Basin

Modeling future deforestation and the impact on biodiversity in the Congo Basin

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