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Community Forestry

“If local and indigenous communities in the Congo Basin are enabled to take over management, it has the potential to restore forests, conserve biodiversity, combat illegal logging, address climate change and secure sustainable livelihoods.”   

When we talk of community forestry, we mean giving communities control over the forest resources they depend on for their survival, so they can manage them responsibly and inclusively. 

Millions of people in developing countries depend on forests for their survival, but many lack secure access to and control over forest resources. NGOs and civil society have a crucial role to play in empowering rural communities and helping to improve the livelihoods of forest peoples, including women through community-based management of forests.

In regions like the Congo Basin – which is full of breath-taking biodiversity, and alongside the Amazon is one of the planet’s lungs – communities have protected forests for generations, but they are now being pushed out of those ancestral lands.

The European Union has been working hard to tackle illegal imports of timber with the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) which improves the way forests are managed and contributes to the legal timber trade.

VPAs have helped community forestry to develop, but more is needed. Communities don’t just need a say in how forests are managed, they also need real land rights. 

CoNGOs project: Empowering communities, securing sustainable livelihoods

The DFID CoNGOs (NGOs collaborating for equitable and sustainable community livelihoods in Congo Basin forests) project had three main aims – awareness raising, creating a favourable environment for community forestry, and trialling pilot projects.   

The project had many successes in each of these areas, for example it led to several dialogues on community forestry between governments and EU institutions and civil society and communities. 

CoNGOs or NGOs collaborating for equitable and sustainable community livelihoods in Congo Basin forests, is a project managed by an IIED-led consortium, which aims to achieve improved governance and practice in equitable and sustainable community forestry livelihoods in the Congo Basin. The geographical focus of the initiative is Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and to a certain extent in Gabon. Dialogue, learning and advocacy activities will be carried out at the regional level.

The CoNGOs consortium members are International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), ClientEarth, Fern, Forest Peoples Program (FPP), Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK) and Well Grounded. The consortium/project partners based in Cameroon are Association OKANI and Centre for Environment and Development (CED); Réseau des Populations Autochtones et Locales pour la gestion durable des écosystèmes forestiers de Centrafrique (REPALCA), Maison de l’Enfant et de la Femme Pygmée (MEFP), and Centre for Information on Environment and Sustainable Development (CIEDD) are based in Central African Republic; Organisation pour le Développement et les Droits Humains au Congo (ODDHC), Forum pour la Gouvernance et les Droits de l’Homme (FGDH) and Comptoir Juridique Junior (CJJ) are based in the Republic of Congo; and Tropenbos International is the partner in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.