Republic of Congo Overview
Area: 342,000 km2
Forest Area: 20 to 22 million hectares
Bordered to the north by Cameroon and the Central African Republic, to the south and east by the Democratic Republic of Congo and to the west by Gabon and the Atlantic Ocean, approximately 60% of the total land area of the Republic of Congo is covered by rainforest, which is extremely rich in flora and fauna. For example, of the 10,000 species of plant identified in the Congo Basin, 1,200 are endemic to the Republic of Congo.
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 70% 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 whose number is estimated at 50,000. Non-timber forest products (animals, fruits, seeds, flowers, etc.) represent fundamental resources for forest communities. Studies have revealed around 800 different species that are used for food, construction, tools, heating, medicine and customary practices. However, RFUK's Congolese NGO partners have found that indigenous peoples in particular are living in situations of extreme poverty and marginalization without secure access to natural resources and lands on which they depend for their culture and survival.
The forest area allocated to timber production is 15 million hectares, while protected areas account for some 3.7 million hectares, or nearly 11% of the country. The rainforests in the south and south-west of the country have faced decades of extensive deforestation while logging activities have intensified in the north. According to an industry survey conducted in 2007, logging generates 5% of GDP and 10% of non-oil GDP, creating more than 12,000 direct and indirect jobs and generating 110 billion CFA francs in turnover and 100 billion CFA francs in exports. However, very little of this appears to have supported the development of forest communities. There is evidence from recent developments with the country's flagship logging operations that their operational practices are inherently unsustainable. Some of what was previously described as ‘sustainable forest management units' in the county's north are closing due to shortage of prime timber - thus following the same trajectory as those in the south. There is a growing likelihood that these over-exploited natural forests will be replaced by agriculture and agro-industrial land uses, such as palm oil and other plantations.
Land and Resource Rights
The Congolese Government passed a new Forestry Code based on the principle of ‘sustainable management' of forest resources in 2000. 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, although most of these are still in preparation.
The law recognizes certain customary resource use rights of indigenous and local communities, but these rights are limited to domestic consumption and do not extend to the marketing of forest products, which are a vital source of income for poor and excluded local and semi-nomadic populations. Similarly, Article 1 of the Land Tenure Act states that "without prejudice to other laws and regulations in force, this law guarantees recognition of customary land rights" although in reality, community access to land ownership and therefore control of forest resources remains extremely limited. There are currently no community forest projects in the country.
As with many other countries in the Congo Basin, 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 Congolese Government has also adopted a new law on the protection and promotion of indigenous peoples - the first of its kind in the region - although application texts for this law still need to be prepared. The Government is also currently developing its strategy to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD).
Partners and Approach
Observatoire Congolais des Droits de l'Homme (OCDH) - the Congolese Human Rights Observatory - is 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, and has coordinated the RFUK's participatory mapping project in the Republic of Congo. In implementing the project, OCDH has worked closely with the Forest Ministry and indigenous peoples' organizations such as the Association of Defence and Promotion of Indigenous Peoples (ADPPA) and the Association BaAka who have all committed staff to participate in project activities. The project aimed to support local communities' and indigenous peoples' production of maps to contribute to participatory development strategies and management of forest resources. Contact Observatoire Congolais des Droits de l'Homme (OCDH) for more information:
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
News from Congo
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 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