Reconciling the Needs of the Logging Industry with those of Forest-Dependent
The Congo Basin forest, the second largest and most intact rainforest in the world, is at the centre of the debate on reconciling timber and non-timber production while satisfying divergent stakeholders' interests. Increasing pressures from logging, shifting agriculture, population growth and mining are accelerating land-use change and forest degradation in the region, and threatening the livelihoods of over 50 million people whose shelter and wellbeing depend on these forests. The Congo Basin forest is also a vital economic resource in the region: over 40% of its 200 million hectares are allocated to commercial logging leases. Given the large number of forest-dependent people living in or near production forest areas, the management of these forests will have a direct impact on local livelihoods. This project aims to generate innovative approaches to forest management in the Congo Basin by increasing multi-functionality (integrating timber and non-timber forest products) to maintain ecosystem integrity and sustain the livelihoods of forest-dependent people. Special attention will be paid to forest species that are critical to local communities for food, medicine or income, in order to minimize the impacts of logging and overexploitation on these important resources. Operational guidelines to incorporate local knowledge and integrate the management of timber and non-timber forest resources will be developed and validated in selected sites in Cameroon, Gabon and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Participation of local communities, forest concession holders, civil society and governmental forest management agencies will be key to ensuring the uptake of results and the effective transformation of the forestry sector in the region. This research will also tackle a fundamental aspect of poverty alleviation: the nutrition and health of rural poor people. Malnutrition and poor health are among the most obvious manifestations of extreme poverty, impeding poverty reduction and human development (World Bank, 2006 ). In many developing countries, local populations depend on and benefit from indigenous forest foods not only as buffers against hunger and poverty, but also as sources of diversified diets that provide proteins, micronutrients and non-nutrient health-protecting compounds. A reduction in the availability and quality of these products will have immediate and lasting consequences on the wellbeing of people in the region, especially the most vulnerable segments of the population such as children. Multiple-use forest management models can both minimize the negative impacts of timber extraction on food security and capitalize on the many benefits provided by forests. The main beneficiaries of this project are the low-income forest dwellers living in or around forest concessionaires, as well as the private and public forest sectors in the region. These actors will benefit from the innovative forest-management approaches employed to tackle the conflict of use between timber and non-timber resources. Local knowledge and traditional forest management practices will be indentified through this project and will constitute an important element of the research. By incorporating participatory research methods, the needs and considerations of forest dwellers will be taken into account. Special emphasis will be given to encouraging local women's involvement in defining suitable management strategies. The project will be locally adapted and modified through participatory evaluations and monitoring as the fieldwork progresses. Workshops with local stakeholders will be held on a regular basis to facilitate this process. Appropriate forest management strategies that allow equitable and sustainable production of goods and services will contribute to reducing deforestation in the Congo Basin. They will also contribute to the Central Africa Forest Commission COMIFAC Convergence Plan, specifically strategic areas 2 (Knowledge of the resource) and 6 (Poverty alleviation) on which CBFF is focusing, as well as areas 4 (Biodiversity Conservation) and 5 (Sustainable use of forests). The proposed project is also in line with the priorities of the CEMAC-PRASAC Research Plan of Action (2007) for Food Security (Axe 3 item 5) and for Environment and Biodiversity (Axe 4 item 1).
To increase multiple-use of forest resources in the Congo Basin through innovative management approaches
1. By the end of the project, forestry departments and at least 3-5 additional timber companies manifest interest in adopting the recommendations 2. Awareness is increased among logging companies regarding the local values of forests areas 3. COMIFAC takes measures to incorporate project recommendations at the regional level
Past research indicates that sustainably managed tropical forest areas have increased from less than 1 million ha in 1988 to more than 36 million ha (ITTO 2006 ). But in spite of the broad recognition of sustainable management and its inclusion as a guiding principle in national forest plans, tropical forests continue to dwindle at a steady rate. Increasing pressures from logging, agriculture and population growth are accelerating forest degradation and conversion around the tropics, including in the Congo Basin.
Over the past decade, attention has shifted towards multiple-use forest management (MFM) models as an alternative to the timber-dominant ones. MFM for timber and non-timber goods and services was envisioned as a promising strategy to both maximize economic growth and conserve forests for the future .
Proponents of MFM emphasize that the inclusion of multiple values and stakeholders might provide a much-needed social and financial boost compared to timber-dominant models. This project addresses the feasibility and the scope of MFM in the Congo Basin by considering the many available timber and non-timber products, scales of operation and forest stakeholders.
This project will tackle a fundamental aspect of poverty alleviation - the nutrition and health of poor people. The Congo Basin forests include a diversity of indigenous trees that are vital to the nutrition and health of local populations. This is particularly important in light of the high levels of poverty and malnutrition among these people. As Cameroon's Minister of Scientific Research and Innovation has recently stated "forest genetic resources in general and edible forest fruits in particular have important nutritional and medicinal roles for populations in sub-Saharan Africa countries" (Eyog-Matig et al. 2006 ). Sustaining these resources is a key priority for the COMIFAC and for the regional agricultural research programme PRASAC. Forest-management guidelines that reconcile timber extraction with non-timber uses will not only satisfy the demands for multiple products and services from the region, but will also contribute to poverty alleviation in the Congo Basin.
Although the elements for implementing multiple-use forest management have been existent for many years, integrated approaches still remain elusive or done on an ad hoc basis, especially sustainable management of timber and non-timber forest products. In addition, several studies have highlighted the low level of innovation in the Congo Basin forestry sector as a result of inadequate human capacity, lack of appropriate management guidelines and other scarce resources. The strength and innovation of this project lies in its ability to address these issues in a harmonized and coherent manner. The development and validation of forest-management models that can reconcile timber and non-timber production and satisfy divergent stakeholders' interests will be an important innovation on both the regional and global levels. It will also provide an important benchmark for achieving greater equity in the forest sector and increasing local communities' participation in the planning and implementation of logging activities. Finally, it emphasizes the link between forests and food security - a fundamental aspect of forest management that has so far received little attention.
The project is transformative in a number of ways, involving direct participation of a wide spectrum of local stakeholders. Relevant steps towards this transformation include:
- Involvement of key national partners in the development of the proposal and in the subsequent implementation of project activities. This will increase national partner ownership of the project and partners' capacity to lead future efforts.
- Collaboration with private sector, research and civil society organisations - transferring practices and experiences from countries where the forest sector is well established to those where it is novel (DRC). This regional-level exchange will allow best practices to be disseminated and will strengthen regional platforms for promoting sustainable forest management.
- Development of innovative forest management approaches that include local communities' values and inputs. This process will raise the awareness of policy makers and concessionaire holders towards local values and provide them with tools to generate a new way of "doing business" in the forest sector.
- At the local level, the project will increase the participation of communities in decisions regarding forest management. This will increase their bargaining power and their capacity to integrate their views and needs in the formal forest sector.
CONFORMITY WITH THE COMIFAC CONVERGENCE PLAN
No.2: Knowledge of the Resource
Many indigenous tree species in Congo Basin have critical roles in local livelihoods and are also highly valued timber export species. The project will gather basic information (ecology, genetic erosion and habitat degradation due to inappropriate harvesting practices) on these multi-purpose species. (Activities: 1.1 to 1.4; 2.1 to 2.4).
No.6: Alternative and improved livelihoods The project will bring stakeholders (governments, local communities and forest concessionaire holders) together to design and implement approaches that will reduce the negative impacts of current logging practices on people's livelihoods. Specific provisions to reflect these commitments will be included in social responsibility contracts (Activities: 3.1 to 3.4; 4.1).
No.9: Development of funding mechanisms.
CBFF is on its own an additional funding mechanism for the Congo Basin region, which encompass the National Forest Trust Fund and NEPAD among others. If this proposal is accepted, these funds will complement and coordinate with other initiatives that partners are already implementing in the region (see box 27).
No.4: Biodiversity conservation
This project will generate major changes in forest management practices in the Congo Basin by increasing the use of multi-use management approaches, which will maintain ecosystem integrity and forest biodiversity. (Activities: 2.1, 2.2, and 2.3; 3.1 to 3.4).
COORDINATION WITH EXISTING INITIATIVES The proposed project will be aligned with several initiatives that project partners are involved in to demonstrate the role of forest foods as buffers against malnutrition and poverty; these projects are establishing baselines and monitoring systems for Central African forests. Particularly it will work in collaboration with three CIFOR-coordinated projects:
- FORENET (EC-ACP funded): Establishment of a Forestry Research Network for African-Caribbean-Pacific (ACP) countries with participation of IRET, IRAD and UNIKIS for the Central Africa component (2008-2010). This project will build capacity through research on topics directly related to the present proposal, especially sustainable use of forest goods and services. This project will also help to secure co-financing to support the proposed project.
- Canadian funded Congo Basin Forests and Climate Change Adaptation (2008-2010). This project is contributing to national processes for adaptation to climate change through the development of policy-oriented adaptation strategies in Cameroon, Central African Republic and DRC.
- FORAFAMA (FFEM funded): This initiative to support the sustainable management of Congo Basin and Brazilian Amazon forests was approved by FFEM in December 2008. It focuses on REDD in Central Africa, contributing to the integration of forest management in the REDD strategies of Congo Basin countries.
The continuity of project activities beyond the grant period will be ensured by:
(i) project partners;
(ii) involvement of local beneficiaries; and
(iii) the project's links with policy makers in the region.
- The five partner institutions are all well established and stable institutions with high credibility and the capacity to build on project results. These institutions will continue their efforts towards sustainable forest management and poverty alleviation beyond the life of the project, and results will be integrated into their practices.
- Local ownership of project outcomes will be achieved by involving local government agencies, timber companies and local communities as project implementation partners. Clear mechanisms for the participation of local stakeholders are defined in the activities in order to enable project outcomes to be taken up directly by local beneficiaries.
- The project will establish communication channels with the directors of forestry departments in each country as well as with COMIFAC and other politically relevant leaders. Information generated by the project will help these decision makers to understand the role of forests in food security, to promote management approaches that reconcile timber with non-timber extraction, and to provide incentives for sustainable forest management.