The CoNGOs project partners discuss a new paradigm for community forestry at the meeting of the CBFP parties in Douala.
At the 17th annual Meeting of Parties of the Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP) in Douala, Cameroon, Fern organised a side event on inclusive forest management in the Congo Basin. The event offered the chance to reflect on the role of community forestry in improving forest and climate governance, based on experiences in the sub-region, in collaboration with partners from the CoNGOs project i.e. the Centre for Environment and Development (Centre pour l'Environnement et le Développement, CED), Cameroon; the Forum for Governance and Human Rights (Forum pour la Gouvernance et les Droits de l’Homme, FGDH), Congo; and the Centre for Environmental Information and Sustainable Development (Centre pour l’Information Environnementale et le Développement Durable, CIEDD), Central African Republic.
The meeting’s overall objective was to improve understanding of the relationship between community forestry and forest and climate governance, by considering the areas dedicated to community forestry as places with the potential both to strengthen forest governance from a ‘landscape’ perspective and to protect the rights of local and indigenous communities. Partners from the CoNGOs project and Climate Analytics presented reports, which led to valuable discussions. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) was given the floor to highlight the challenges related to a decade of implementing community forestry in Cameroon.
At almost 2 million km2, the Congo Basin is the second largest tropical rainforest in the world after the Amazon. An important source of game, wild fruit, vegetables, spices, medicine and building materials, it supports millions of people. It also plays a crucial role in regulating the global climate and water cycles. Although the forests in the Congo Basin have long been exploited by the wood industry, hunter-gatherers and farmers, they remain largely intact compared with other forest ecosystems, such as the Amazon or the Mekong region. In Africa, there is growing concern over the ever-increasing demand for agricultural products and wood, which is responsible for the destruction of the Amazon rainforest and those in South-East Asia. Large landowners have recently bought millions of hectares of African land to exploit palm oil, rubber and cocoa.
Community forest management is a new concept in the Congo Basin, with Cameroon being the only country in Central Africa to date to have a community forest. The panel organised by Fern highlighted the importance of developing innovative models for community forests that are likely to help protect forests, improve livelihoods and increasingly sequester carbon. Participants agreed on the need to go beyond contrasting community forestry with the industrial use of forests, and rather to support a new paradigm drawing on the lessons learned from the Cameroon model and from good practices in Latin America and Asia.