Home › Democratic Republic Of Congo
Surface area: 2,344,858 km2
Population: 68.7 million
Rainforest Cover: 100-128 million hectares
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has the second largest and among the most intact contiguous strands of tropical forests in the world. Covering around 120 million hectares, it accounts for more than half of the total remaining rainforests in the Congo Basin region.
These forests are home to an estimated 40 million people. Indigenous and local communities have lived interdependently with this rich ecological diversity for many centuries. However, both peoples and biodiversity are in a precarious situation. There are pressures from industrial logging, illegal logging, oil exploration, infrastructure projects and mining activities with plans for agro-industrial parks recently announced that would cover millions of hectares (although it is not clear to what extent these will overlap with forest areas). Protected areas currently account for 11% of the national territory with the government committed to increasing this to 17% by 2020.
However, partially as a result of moratorium on the allocation of new industrial logging concessions in place since 2002, there is in excess of 75 million hectares of intact forest potentially available for alternative models of forest management.
Research has shown that traditional tenure systems in DRC’s forests have generally remained stable and widespread despite colonial land laws being replicated by successive governments and growing pressures on forest lands from the extractive industries and others.
There is currently no effective system of land management in the country with multiple overlapping land uses and designations superimposed over these customary areas – often resulting in land-related conflict. In theory, DRC’s involvement in international efforts to reduce emissions deforestation and degradation (REDD) can act as a catalyst and incentive to clarify tenure and strengthen land rights, although the necessary reforms for this have yet to materialise.
However, there have in recent years been some positive legal developments, even if they are not yet very visible in terms of implementation. In 2015, the government passed landmark community forest legislation that allows communities to request and obtain, in perpetuity, multiple-use concessions to customary lands up to a maximum of 50,000 hectares. This presents an enormous opportunity to establish pro-poor forestry at scale even if there are also significant challenges, certain loopholes in the text especially in the absence of strong institutions on the ground.
The Rainforest Foundation UK has been working since 2002. We partner with RRN (Réseau Ressources Naturelles), a network of over 250 Congolese environmental and human rights NGOs, and directly with a number of its member organisations including GASHE (Groupe d’action pour sauver l’homme et son environnement) in Equador Province, CADEM (Centre d’accompagnement de la population pour le développement de Maï Ndombe) in Bandundu, and CAGDFT (Centre d'Appui à la Gestion Durable des Forêts Tropicales) based in Kinshasa.
To date we have supported communities to map their traditional lands in the territories of Lukulela an Ingende in Equateur Province, as well as various sectors in Mai Ndombe and Maniema Provinces (register or log-in to the interactive map to see the data).
This work has been used to support communities in a number of different areas including defending their rights in relation to protected areas; influencing the design of a major REDD project, advocating for community forest legislation in DRC and serving as a geographical basis for some of the first pilots in the country; and testing this in the context of participatory land-use planning. The recently launched ForestLink system is now also being used by communities to monitor the impacts of industrial and semi-industrial logging sectors on their forest home.