Central African Republic Overview
Surface Area: 622,984 km2
Population: 4.3 million
Forest Cover: 5 million hectares
Lying on the northern edge of the Congo Basin, the Central African Republic (CAR) is bordered by Cameroon, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of Congo and Sudan. The country contains vastly different ecosystems, with dry savannah landscapes in the centre and north, and lush tropical forests in parts of the south, which account for some 8% of the national territory. These forests contain some of the most abundant wildlife in Africa including forest elephants, bongos, lowland gorillas and chimpanzees.
Despite substantial natural resources which include diamonds, uranium, gold, oil and timber, CAR ranks only 159th out of 169 countries in the UNDP Human Development Index (2010). The inhabitants of CAR belong to numerous ethnic groups, the largest being the Baya, Banda and Mandija.The humid forests of the south are inhabited by the forest dependent people such as the indigenous Aka whose number is estimated at around 15,000 in the Lobaye prefecture alone, one of four prefectures in which they are present.
Land and Resource Rights
As with the other Central African countries, the state is the sole owner of the land and allocates portions of forest for exploitation or conservation purposes. A major part of the CAR rainforest - almost all of the 3.8 million hectares of dense forest in the south-west of the country - has been allocated as long-term logging concessions "for a period equal to the life of the society"(Forestry Code), and as conservation projects including Mbaéré Bodingué and Dzangha-Ndoki national parks).
On October 17 2008, CAR adopted a new Forest Code which aims to "reconcile the exploitation of forest products with the requirements of conservation of forest resources and biodiversity for sustainable development". Part of the law is aimed at securing the rights of local communities to access and control territories and forest resources - conditions increasingly recognised as critical to the long-term preservation of forest ecosystems and the local economy. Among these new provisions is the concept of "community forests", for which the allocation and management are regulated by a set of implementing texts issued by the Government in April 2009. The new law also recognizes certain customary rights to local people to use forest products "freely, for their livelihood" and states that indigenous peoples cannot be removed from traditional lands which fall within protected areas without their free, informed and prior consent.
CAR has taken the lead on indigenous peoples' issues in the region, being the first African state to ratify ILO Convention No. 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples. This Convention will have implications for the land and resource rights regime in CAR, as it contains some specific provisions relating to these rights. Like other countries in the Congo Basin, the Central African Republic in December 2010 signed a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the European Union under the Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) initiative, which aims to improve forest governance and ensure that timber imported to the EU comes from legal sources. The Central African government is also currently developing its strategy for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD).
Partners and Approach
RFUK's participatory mapping initiative in CAR was launched in 2009 and is coordinated by the NGO, Maison de l'Enfant et de la Femmes Pygmées (MEFP). MEFP was created in 2000 and its goal is to promote the social, economic and cultural well-being of indigenous communities in general and indigenous women and children in particular. The programme has developed a close collaboration with other civil society organisations and the Ministry of Water, Forests, Fishing and Hunting through a training programme and strategic partnership to develop procedures for community forestry in the country.
The High Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance, the national institution responsible for the implementation of human rights policy in the Central African Republic, is also involved in the programme, particularly with regards to all cross-cutting issues related to indigenous people's rights and Convention 169 of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
The programme objective is to develop the capacity of civil society and state officials to assist communities to produce participatory maps and data that can be used in dialogue and decision making processes. Specifically, this aims to support the development of national policies concerning forest management such as community forestry and the participatory management of protected areas. More more information, contact Maison de l'Enfant et de la Femmes Pygmées (MEFP):
News from CAR
RFUK’s application to become a member of the International Land Coalition (ILC) was approved at the ILC Assembly of Members on April 25, 2013 in Antigua, Guatemala. The ILC’s vision is to secure and equitable access to and control over land reduces poverty and contributes to identity, dignity and inclusion. It is composed of 152 members in over 50 countries, including civil society and farmers’ organisations, United Nations agencies, NGOs, and research institutes.Read more
RFUK Programme Briefings - 24/04/2013
A basic information leaflet about our community lawyer programme in the Congo Basin, providing an overview of our work and plans for the future. Also follow this link to find out more about our work with indigenous peoples in the region, the challenges they face and how we tackle them.Read more
The Rainforest Foundation UK has just initiated a new, large scale programme in the Congo Basin, aiming to contribute to poverty reduction, sustainable management and improved governance of tropical rainforests in the Congo Basin in particular the Central African Republic (CAR) and in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).Read more
The Central African Republic (CAR) ratified the International Labour Organisation's (ILO) Convention No. 169 on indigenous and tribal peoples in August 2010, becoming the first African country to adopt the Convention. This historic development for indigenous peoples in the country and on the continent places an obligation on the CAR Government to ensure that national laws and policies are coherent with the provisions of C169.Read more
RFUK is delighted to announce the launch of its new project in the Central African Republic and Gabon, aimed at enhancing legal capacity of forest communities to protect their rights to land and resources. The project will provide training and support to at least 10 law graduates and at least 15 community paralegals who will be based in forest communities on a permanent basis.Read more
The new MappingForRights website provides, for the first time, interactive maps which show the precise location of communities living in the Congo Basin rainforest and how and where they use forest resources.Read more