After some 30 years of experience in preserving the Congo's forests, France is opting for a new approach. The Projet paysage forestier du Nord-Congo (PPFNC), which places local communities at the heart of forest preservation. The project aims to improve the fight against deforestation in a country where nearly 311,000 hectares of forest are ravaged every year, according to the United Nations (UN).
A new and innovative approach to biodiversity conservation is taking shape in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It is the North Congo Forest Landscape Project (PPFNC), designed and implemented by the French Ministry of Ecological Transition and Solidarity and the French Development Agency (AFD), for the benefit of the Congolese Ministry of Forest Economy, Sustainable Development and Environment. “This is a real paradigm shift for AFD, which until now has focused on implementing forestry development plans. For the first time, we will not only provide support to certified forest managers. Local populations are now at the centre of our technical and financial operations,” explains Mathieu Auger-Schwarzenberg, the project team leader in AFD’s Agriculture, Rural Development and Biodiversity Division.
The PPFNC aims to achieve a more equitable sharing of forest revenues by contributing to the development of economic activities for the benefit of local communities and indigenous populations living near the 19 forest concessions in northern Congo. The area targeted by the project covers approximately 9.5 million hectares, including the departments of Sangha, Likouala and the northern part of Cuvette-Ouest. 10.2 million from AFD (‘6 million), the French Global Environment Facility (FGEF, ‘1.5 million), the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo, UNESCO’s International Bioethics Committee and the IFO (German Economic Research Institute).
A worrying rate of deforestation
By improving the management of biodiversity and ecological corridors in the north of the DRC, the PPFNC will help to reduce the anthropic pressure on the forest ecosystems of this Central African country. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Congo has one of the highest deforestation rates on the African continent. From 1990 to 2015, the deforestation rate in the DRC remained constant at 0.20%, which is equivalent to a loss of 311,000 hectares of forest per year.
And according to figures provided by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), deforestation has increased significantly in recent years in the DRC. Timber harvesting has increased from 3.05 million m3 in 1990 to 4.45 million m3 in 2010; fuelwood has increased from 44.2 million m3 to 75.44 million m3 per year over the same period.