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Area: 342,000 km2
Forest Area: 20 to 22 million hectares
With an estimated 3.7 million inhabitants spread over an area of 342,000 km2, the Republic of Congo has a low population density of 10.8 inhabitants per km2, with 60% of the population concentrated in the urban centers of Brazzaville and Pointe Noire. It is composed of different groups: Baya, Kongo, Kota, Mbere Nzabi, Mbochi, Makasi, Punu, Sangha, Teke, and indigenous hunter-gatherers living in the rainforests whose number is estimated at 50,000.
Approximately 60% of the total land area of the Republic of Congo is covered by rainforest which accounts for over 20 million hectares or around 11% of the total forest cover of the Congo Basin Africa (FAO, 2006). Of this, 11.6 million hectares has been allocated to industrial logging companies and a further 3.6 million hectares reserved as strictly protected areas. Forest areas are extremely rich in biodiversity containing more than 10,000 species of plant, 1,200 of which are endemic to the Republic of Congo.
The Congolese land tenure regime is primarily based around the recognition of property rights although these provisions do not provide for collective land possession or ownership, which is the form of land use and rights typically claimed by indigenous peoples and other forest-dependent communities that organise themselves collectively. However, in February 2011 the government adopted a new law on the protection and promotion of indigenous populations which is the first of its kind in Africa and marks an historic development for indigenous peoples in the Congo and on the continent. This law asserts that the “State ensures that indigenous peoples are consulted in a suitable manner” and provides a legal basis to ensure their civil and political, cultural rights, as well as rights to lands and resources. Article 31 states that indigenous peoples have individual and collective rights to own, possess, access and use lands and natural resources they traditionally use – although legal application texts for the law have yet to be adopted and implementation overall of this law has been slow.
The Forestry Code is based on the principle of ‘sustainable management' of forest resources. Application texts for this law were adopted in 2002 followed by national guidelines for sustainable forest management, published in 2004. The legislative framework supports the development of management plans for logging concessions (most of which are still under preparation) and encourages the participation of local and indigenous communities in the management of forests. However field experiences show that this often isn’t the case, and there remains no legal basis for community-based forest management in the country. New large-scale palm oil plantations, allocated through seemingly opaque procedures, are also now posing a threat to lands occupied by local communities and other land users.
The Republic of Congo has entered into a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the EU under the Forest, Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) initiative which aims to ensure that timber imported into the EU comes from legal sources. The Government is also developing its strategy to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) although it remains unclear whether this poses an opportunity or threat to the land and resource rights of local communities.
Our primary partner is the Congolese Human Rights Observatory (OCDH) - a prominent national human rights organisation which, amongst other things, has supported the drafting of the national law on the protection of indigenous peoples' rights. OCDH has also coordinated participatory mapping activities in the country since 2009 in conjunction with the Forest Ministry, the Forum for Governance and Human Rights (FGDH), indigenous peoples' organizations such as the Association of Defence and Promotion of Indigenous Peoples (ADPPA) and the Association BaAka as well as other members of the national NGO plate-form for the Sustainable Management of Forests.
To contact OCDH :
Observatoire congolais des droits de l'Homme
32, av. des 3 martyrs, immeuble Ntiétié
Place de la station de bus Jane Vialle Moungali
B.P.: 4021 Brazzaville - République du Congo
Tél.: + (242) 553 15 73 / 561 57 18