Enabling local and indigenous communities in the Congo Basin to take over forest management has the potential to restore natural forests, conserve biodiversity, combat illegal logging, address climate change and secure sustainable livelihoods. By managing forests sustainably and inclusively, community forestry can help curb deforestation and reduce associated greenhouse gas emissions, as well as supporting sustainable resource management and development.
However, “community forestry management” is a contested concept. Governments in the region and donors tend to reduce community forestry to usage rights, resource exploitation focusing on timber extraction and the redistribution of revenues to communities often through the intervention of third parties. Such approaches ignore the recognition and protection of customary tenure and other community rights, making indigenous peoples and women particularly vulnerable to national policy changes and re-distribution of land (or large-scale land acquisitions by companies).
Creating effective, equitable, sustainable and genuinely community-based management of resources requires an informed and participatory approach to addressing the legal, governance, capacity and financial constraints that communities face especially IPs and women. Secure communities, equipped with good evidence about their forest management options, can claim their rights and participate effectively in strengthening and sustaining their livelihoods, while protecting forests.
Fern Submission to the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit for CLARA