The work and research for development conducted by FORETS “FOrmation, Recherche, Environnement dans la TShopo” (training, research, environment in the Tshopo region) provide opportunities for policy makers, funders and communities to better understand the contribution that forests play in supporting local economies, health and well-being and regional biodiversity.
The project, funded with resources from the XI European Development Fund, is expected to make an important contribution to integrated development of the Yangambi Biosphere Reserve in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Its specific objectives are conservation and the sustainable use of the biodiversity and ecosystem services alongside local economic development in the area. Activities take place in Yangambi and Kisangani in the Tshopo Province. They address the need to support local communities through raising awareness and outreach, but also build local human resource capacity though formal university training programs including masters- and doctoral-level programs.
The project includes socio-economic development opportunities in an area of about 400,000 hectares with direct and indirect impacts on a population of approximately one million urban and rural dwellers. The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) is implementing the project with help from local and international partners.
The vast tropical forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo are a genetic treasure and offer a means of subsistence for local communities and contribute to the environmental stability of the planet.
For many years, political instability and conflict have hindered efforts to build and benefit from sustainable forest management and natural resource development in the DRC. Since 2001, the country has made some progress with the help of important sectoral reforms, but there are still challenges to the management and conservation of forests, especially in the context of the role forests play in climate change.
The Yangambi biosphere reserve protects 250,000 hectares of tropical forests, a multitude of tree species and endangered animals. However, this reserve faces pressure from expanding agriculture, exploitation of forest products including the conversion of wood to energy and small-scale mining practiced by local communities.
To find lasting solutions to these challenges in such a complex landscape, local mobilization and conservation actions are needed in the reserve and surrounding areas, with an emphasis on collecting solid baseline data and monitor change. In the northern Tshopo province, the FORETS project consists of two parts: helping local communities living near the reserve manage natural resources more effectively and training graduate science students to produce reliable empirical data that will be useful in developing conservation actions.
TRAINING RESEARCHERS IN SUSTAINABLE MANAGEMENT
The FORETS project at Kisangani University, located 90 kilometers east of Yangambi, and INERA aim to bring researchers and local people closer together and to promote development in the Yangambi Reserve and in its surroundings. Training is provided in land and natural resource management, plantation creation and management, and applied and targeted research and development in a city that was, in its time, the largest tropical agricultural research station in the world. This station has gradually lost its importance in recent decades, but CIFOR and its partners will work to support and revive the research and development that takes place there. Given that the DRC has few scientists with graduate degrees, CIFOR will continue to support Congolese masters and doctoral students, strengthen research at the university and provide the tools for development and infrastructure that are lacking.
CONTRIBUTIONS OF FORETS TO LOCAL DEVELOPMENT
Through development and professional training, research and awareness-raising, as well as a strong network of local and international partners, the FORETS project will contribute to local socio-economic development. It will also promote and protect the biodiversity of the Yangambi Biosphere Reserve, train researchers and other relevant stakeholders at the local level for more effective land use and natural resource management. To do this, the project will have three areas of focus:
- Contribution to the protection and sustainable management of the Yangambi Biosphere Reserve. In order to maintain or enhance the value of Yangambi’s exceptional biodiversity, work will be conducted with local communities to:
- Quantify existing resources and analyze land use, economic conditions and spatial planning organization;
- Raise awareness locally about the conservation and management of the biosphere reserve;
Secondly, to ensure the maintenance of the ecosystem services of the reserve and its surroundings and to ensure that local communities benefit more through conservation actions, the project will contribute to:
- Develop participatory plans to better benefit from ecosystem services;
- Restore and develop local research infrastructures in the area around the reserve.
- Promote the contribution of agriculture, forests and ecosystem services to the development of people living around the reserve. To improve people’s livelihoods by helping them to increase the value of goods they produce, the following activities will be conducted:
- Identification of needs and communication of data and research results to local entrepreneurs and managers;
- Assessment of agricultural, agro-forestry and forestry value chains and practices and contribution to local development plans;
- Analysis of the feasibility and impacts of forest plantations for multiple uses, including local energy production.
- Reduce deforestation and increase carbon storage through the protection, restoration and management of natural resources. To contribute to the long-term management of a landscape that encompasses the reserve and its surroundings and to build the capacity of local experts, the FORETS project will:
- Create an applied research agenda for sustainable forest management, including the most exploited resources, such as timber and game.
To promote the development of skills and capacities for sustainable forest management and biodiversity, we will:
- Accompany master’s and PhD students and train the people involved in the project.
This project, which is funded by the European Union, is led by CIFOR as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA).