Working in the world’s second largest tropical forest, the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) is embarking on its largest capacity building and development project in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) so far.
The European Union-supported endeavor – the next phase of CIFOR and the EU’s collaboration in the DRC – will focus efforts in two areas: Yangambi, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and the Faculty of Sciences at the University of Kisangani.
The 250,000-hectare Yangambi reserve is rich in biodiversity but subject to multiple pressures from local communities of shifting cultivators and traders in forest products. The Training, Research, Environment in the Tshopo (Province) project, known as FORETS, will support the people in the area to better manage natural resources as well as conservation and research efforts in and around the reserve. This work will be buoyed by the empirical evidence collected by several cohorts of postgraduate students formally trained at the University of Kisangani.
CIFOR scientist and supervisor of the project’s academic activities in Kisangani, Christian Amani, said, “This new phase is very exciting because it will continue to increase the number of Congolese professionals and highly qualified scientists with a much broader view of the forestry sector, ready to tackle the country’s various environment and development problems.
“These trained scientists will bring to the country a holistic approach, combining both biophysics and natural resources governance, thanks to the two major fields of study – ‘People and Forests’ and ‘Forest and the Environment’.”
In Yangambi, efforts will include trainings in land and natural resource management, tree planting and targeted applied research in a place that was once home to the largest tropical research station in the world. The station has declined in the decades since, and CIFOR will play a role in sustaining and uplifting the scientific work being carried out in the reserve.
The project’s work at the University of Kisangani, 90 kilometers east of Yangambi along the Congo River aims to close the gap between researchers and the people living in the places they research. CIFOR will be supporting local Master’s and PhD students, research at the university and providing much-needed infrastructure and scientific tools. In training the next generation of Congolese forest and landscape researchers, the project will build essential expertise to ultimately improve the country’s natural resource management.
This five-year project in the DRC will have the dual role of enhancing economic development in much-needed areas while working to minimize environmental impacts, similar objectives as in the other four major projects funded by the EU in the DRC.
“The country’s wealth of natural resources is susceptible to threats from climate change, and the FORETS project will work to minimize those threats to people and the environment by protecting forests and improving forest management,” EU Ambassador M. Bart Ouvry said.