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Inongo territory is in the Province of Bandundu in the centre-west of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It is home to a large number of Bantu groups and indigenous peoples, many of which depend on the forest and its resources for their survival.
The area was one of the main centres of rubber production in the late 19th Century under Belgian colonial rule and is today home to the Tumba-Lediima protected area. A number of large logging companies are based here, with 13 logging titles potentially under conversion to new logging concessions if the Congolese Government decides to lift a moratorium announced in 2002 on the allocation of 15 million hectares of new logging concessions in DRC - an area larger than the size of the UK.
Many of the communities in the region live either inside or on the edge of logging concessions, creating a number of conflicts over natural resources, notably around logging concessions managed by Sodefor, a subsidiary of Nord-Sud Timber Company. The company has been described by Greenpeace as: "one of the largest and highly controversial logging companies in the [DRC] which has a track record of social conflicts that have resulted in violence, arbitrary arrests and human rights violations." This is despite the company having been certified under the sustainable forest management initiative of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which is supposed to safeguard the rights of local and indigenous people.
In 2007-8, the Natural Resources Network (Reseau Ressources Naturelles or RRN) and several of its partner organisations, with the support of RFUK and the Rainforest Foundation Norway (RFN), mapped community resource use in the Inongo territory in what was one largest exercises of its kind ever undertaken in Africa. A total of 408 community mappers from 200 communities were directly involved in data collection covering two of the three sectors in the territory - Basengele and Bolia - chosen due to their population density and accessibility.
The maps produced demonstrate the extensive overlap between customary areas and those of other external actors such as logging companies and conservation agencies, and have been used to support communities' efforts to gain rights to these areas. The exercise has also served as a test site to provide input into the national pilot forest zoning programme for DRC, supported by the The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) and the World Bank, to ensure that the rights of indigenous and local communities are taken into account.
The project also achieved a great deal in terms of increasing Congolese capacity in participatory mapping and approaches, the use of GIS and in terms of engagement in and influencing local and national decision making processes. Due to the success of the project, mapping activities were extended to cover all provinces of DRC by the beginning of 2009.