FORETS supports Congolese communities to obtain forest title

In close partnership with local authorities and civil society, the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) is supporting the villages in Yainyongo in Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in their pursuit to set up a community forest and benefit from the existing provisions in the Congolese legal framework.

As part of the project FORETS (Formation, Recherche et Environnement dans la Tshopo), funded by the European Union, CIFOR has committed to accompany the communities of Romée, Ikongo-Ecole, Utisongo, Biondo, and Bokuma to secure and formalize their rights to exploit the resources of the neighboring forest, and to set up a sustainable economic plan to ensure that a community managed forest improves the local living conditions for present and future generations. 

“We are very enthusiastic to start this process,” said André Yenga Dipo, district chief of Yainyongo. “We are convinced that obtaining a title is the first step for our communities to use forests as a driver of local development.”

Local representatives receive training on the Congolese forestry code. Photo: Ahtziri Gonzalez/CIFOR

In 2014, DRC’s forestry code established the legal concept of ‘local community forest concession’(LCFC), which gave communities the right to claim up to 50,000 hectares of forest land on the basis of their customary rights. This request should be free of charge, according to the law. And once communities obtain the title of LCFC they should be allowed to freely exploit the forest for subsistence or commercial uses.

However, until now, only 64 local communities have obtained their titles in the whole country. And in the Tshopo Province, only two LCFCs have been allocated.

“In practice, setting up a community forest in DRC is not an easy task,” said Silvia Ferrari, CIFOR scientist. “First, communities have little information on their rights and on the requirements and processes to request the LCFC. Second, while the request is free, there are a number of associated costs that are out of their reach without external support – for example doing a detailed mapping of the area.”

This is why CIFOR’s support is important. From providing training on the provisions of the Congolese forestry code, to leading participatory mapping processes and absorbing associated costs, FORETS is making this local initiative a reality.