A Green Revolution for Africa: disaster in the making

Ignorance is the night of the mind, but a night without moon or star. -Confucius

Introduction

A recent World Bank report caused ripples around the world because it blamed agrofuel production in the United States and Europe, speculative trading and food export bans as the main reasons for the steep rise in global food prices. The report concluded that these factors pushed up prices by a staggering 70-75%.(1). However, the World Bank report has only scratched the surface of what really lies at the heart of the current food crisis. A much more brutally frank appraisal is called for to dismantle the ‘structural meltdown’ brought about by polices such as the Green Revolution, which transformed food that is sacred, into a global commodity for speculation and bargaining. (2) Indeed, the widespread food riots have been precipitated by a growing dissatisfaction and frustration by many of the worlds poor to the ‘collateral’ damage incurred by the globalising forces of capital. These very same forces are being galvanized to accelerate agricultural development in Asia and Latin America, and to resuscitate the agrarian sector in Africa. In other words the driving forces behind the ‘new’ green revolution in Africa.

When world leaders hastily gathered at the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) High Level Conference to respond to the global food crisis, they spewed out a dismal declaration (3) that continued to prescribe the customary promotion of technical and economic solutions such as the advancement of the ‘new’ green revolution in Africa. In the midst of the Conference, the three Rome based United Nation’s institutions, namely, the FAO, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Food Programme (WFP) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Rockerfeller and Gates Foundations’ Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), to aggressively advance the Green Revolution push in Africa.

A distinctive underpinning of the propagation of the Green Revolution is the inherent tendency to view food shortages as a shortcoming of food supply rather than as a more complex phenomenon requiring a far more holistic and wide ranging understanding of why people go hungry.

The AGRA-led Green revolution is a threat to the richness of African traditional agriculture. It stands in sharp contrast to the many successful African alternatives in organic agriculture, sustainable agriculture, agro-forestry, pastoralism, integrated pest management, farmer-led plant breeding, sustainable watershed management and many other agroecological approaches.

At its core, the Green Revolution undermines Africa’s food systems and food sovereignty: people’s right to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems.

The Green Revolution

The Green Revolution refers to the development of high yielding varieties (HYVs) bred for a strong yield response to inorganic fertilizers and other chemical inputs. These HYVs are part of a technological package, consisting of inorganic fertilizers, pesticides and other chemical inputs. They are acclaimed as having greatly improved global agricultural production, thereby contributing to sustained food surpluses and eliminating the threat of hunger. (4)

The development of sterile hybrid seeds to replace naturally self-producing seed was one of the key steps in the process of capitalist accumulation in the agricultural sector. As long as seeds reproduced themselves it would be extremely difficult for capitalism to control the core component of the agricultural sector. Once the development of seeds had been removed from the farmer and seeds were no longer self-producing, the course of capitalist control of the agrarian sector was complete and seeds became a crucial component of the accumulation process. This element of control has been further accentuated through the production of Genetically Modified Organisms and the establishment of a more rigorous patenting and intellectual property rights regime.

The Green Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s therefore facilitated the integration of a world agrarian system under the ‘guise of addressing the question of national food security’. (5)

The problems associated with conventional and industrial agriculture, as epitomized by the Green Revolution entail the following: (6)

Agriculture has come to draw the inputs which it uses from more distant sources, both spatially and sectorally, to derive an increasing proportion of its energy supplies from non-renewable sources, to depend upon a more narrow genetic base and to have an increasing impact on the environment. This is particularly reflected in its heavy reliance on chemical fertilizers and pesticides, its dependence upon subsidies and price support and its external costs such as threats to other species, environmental pollution, habitat destruction and risks to human health and welfare.

Indeed, the Green Revolution package is highly energy dependent, directly in the form of fuel for transport and machinery, and indirectly in the production of fertilisers and other inputs. Continuous and increasing utilisation of an energy intensive agricultural paradigm will not only drive up the cost of food production but will also contribute further to climate change.

The Green Revolution in Africa

The ‘new’ Green Revolution for Africa is a ‘science based revolution’ aimed at transforming ‘backward’ and ‘inefficient’ agriculture into a new vision of modernity. On 12 September 2006, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (7) (‘Gates Foundation’) launched their Green Revolution partnership titled the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). Headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya, AGRA is designed to help millions of small-scale farmers lift themselves out of poverty and hunger by significantly boosting farm productivity with Green Revolution type technologies. (8) To this end, the Gates Foundation has committed $100 million and the Rockefeller Foundation, $50 million for the next five years. (9)

The main focus of AGRA is on crop breeding in respect of which an ambitious 5-year target has been set to develop 100 new varieties from core crops such as maize, cassava, sorghum and millet. AGRA has been registered as a charitable organization in the US and serves as the pivotal administrative body, providing policy advocacy support and resource mobilization expertise, especially regarding the disbursements of the initial commitment of $150 million.

In June 2007, former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan was appointed as the chairperson of AGRA. It is anticipated that one of Annan’s primary roles will be to draw on his considerable political connections, extensive network and general clout to strongly advocate for global, regional and national policies to support AGRA and its programs. Already he has been able to solicit the direct support from the three Rome based UN agencies, the FOA, IFAD and the WFP. In terms of the MOU referred to above, specific agricultural intensification zones in selected African countries will be identified in order to accelerate food production.

Kofi Annan’s AGRA is nothing but a philanthropic flagship of a large network of chemical-seed, fertilizer companies and Green Revolution institutions seeking to industrialize African agriculture. AGRA’s high-profile campaign for a new Green Revolution is designed to attract private investment, enrol African governments, and convince African farmers to buy new seeds and fertilizers. AGRA is preparing researchers, institutions, and African farmers for the introduction of GMO crops, not only for rice, wheat and maize, but also for cassava, plantain and other African food crops. The ideology thus underpinning the entire AGRA as a package is to pave the way for the industrialization of African food crops, opening the door to large agribusiness to enter African agricultural systems and dominate.

Food Sovereignty

The concept of food sovereignty was developed by La Via Campesina, a global peasant movement, and introduced into the public debate during the Word Food Summit, held in Rome, Italy during 1996, as an alternative framework for food and agriculture. According to Via Campesina, the world is facing a historic clash between two models of economic, social and cultural development for the rural world: an agribusiness model of agricultural development within which the Green Revolution is located, and an alternative paradigm called food sovereignty which starts with the concept of economic and social human rights, which include the right to food. (10) Food sovereignty is concerned with political and economic rights for farmers as precondition for the attainment of food security.

The concept is increasingly gaining more support as the alternative political model for food, agriculture, fisheries and pastoralism. During February 2007, more than 500 representatives from more than 80 countries from organizations of peasants/family farmers, artisanal fisher folk, indigenous peoples, landless peoples, rural workers, migrants, pastoralists, forest communities, women, youth, consumers and environmental and urban movements gathered together in the village of Nyéléni in Sélingué, Mali to strengthen a global movement for food sovereignty. Towards the end of 2007, another meeting of representing farmers’, pastoralists, environmental, women, youth and development organizations from more than 150 participants from 25 African countries and 10 countries from other continents gathered at the Nyéléni center and pledged to seek African alternatives to AGRA’s campaign for a new Green Revolution; alternatives that are locally rooted in local agroecosystems and struggles for food sovereignty. (11)

Much work is to be done at the national level to advance a campaign for African alternatives to AGRA’s campaign and those of its consorts, for a new Green Revolution. These alternatives must be rooted in local agroecosystems and struggles for food sovereignty. Farmer to farmer learning and research, grassroots information campaigns, and policies that support agro-biodiversity and the rights of pastoralists, women farmers, and all small farmers are important pillars of such a campaign.

By Mariam Mayet, African Centre for Biosafety

[1] Biofuels major driver of food price rise-World Bank 28 July 2008. Reuters. http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/N286150`6.htm. Biofuels are prime cause of food crisis, says leaked report Aditya Chakrobortty, July 3 2008 http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/jul/03/biofuels.renewableenergy.

[2] GRAIN. Making a killing from the food crisis. April 2008. http://www.grain.org/ing/?id=39

[3] High Level Conference on World Food Security: the Challenges of Climate Change and Bioenergy, in Rome 3-5 June 2008. Declaration of the high-level Conference on World Food Security: The challenges of climate change and society. (www.fao.org/foodclimate/hlc-home/en). See also, Neth Dano, Food Security Declaration weak on substance www.twnside.org.sg, www.biosafety-info.net

[4] International Food Policy Institute (IFPRI) (2002). Sustainable options for ending hunger and poverty: Green Revolution Cure of Blessing www.ifpriorg

[5] McMichael, P. (2004) ‘Global Development and the Corporate Food Regime’. Symposium on New Directions in the Sociology of Global Development. XI World Congress of Rural Sociology. Trondheim.

[6] Rigby, D and Brown, S. (2007) ‘Whatever Happened to Organic? Food, Nature and the Market for ‘‘Sustainable” Food’. Capitalism Nature Socialism. Vol. 18, No. 3.

[7] Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) is a Seattle based company founded in 2000, through the merger between the Gates Learning Foundation and the William H. Gates Foundation. The BMGF is the biggest charity foundation in the world. Foundation Factsheet http://www.gatesfoundation.org/MediaCentre/FactSheet/default.htm

[8] Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa. http://www.agra-alliance.org

[9] OECD. Africa Partnership Forum www.oecd.org/dataoecd/37/1/39024069.pdf

[10] Via Campesina. (2002). Food Sovereignty. Flyer distributed at the World Food Summit + 5, Rome Italy.

[11] Outcome of conference at Nyeleni Centre in Selingue, Mali November 26-December 2, 2007.

8 / 2008 at 12:33 am 1 comment

Tree Plantations in Africa: A co-ordinated onslaught to grab what remains of Africa’s natural capital?

In the past

For hundreds of years, it seems the African continent has been viewed as a kind of take-out convenience store by countries in the North – at first mainly for rare and exotic commodities like gemstones, precious metals, ivory, plants and slaves; and later for more basic items such as minerals, food, timber and oil. There is however a new rush to exploit Africa’s resources, this time aiming at the very basics – the fertile soil, relatively abundant water, and low-cost labour represented by poor people across the continent.

The main difference between convenience store shopping and what has happened to Africa though is that the first operates on the democratic principle of ‘willing buyer – willing seller’, and recognises the right of the business owner to make and to retain a fair profit. However in Africa’s case, it has been a mostly one-sided arrangement with choice usually dictated by which end of the barrel of a gun the business owners, in this case African nations, found themselves. Military supported shopping incursions by Britain and many of the major European countries saw Africa carved up into colonies that are still largely dominated by their former masters.

What about the profits? Doubtless much money has been made, but it appears that the countries that were plundered for their natural wealth have yet to see much of it, if any. Instead, it has been spirited away from Africa in various forms: as ‘commissions’, dividends, consultant fees, taxes, import duties, etc. or exported in the form of cash and private assets by corrupt leaders and disenchanted expatriates.

But the most likely reason for this situation is that the profits have actually been realised outside of Africa – often through the practice of under-invoicing or inflated management fees between related companies, but also through a range of other means including the manipulation of markets and currency exchange rates, and of course the all-time favourite, instigating and supporting regional wars that distort commodity prices, and keep the armaments industry in business.

In the name of ‘trade and commerce’, vast areas of the African landscape have already been transformed from pristine ecosystems into denuded and scarred wastelands. From the devastation of surface mining in Namaqualand, to the mounds of mining waste that surround the city of Johannesburg; from the eroded catchments of the hinterland, to the silted wetlands and estuaries; from the dustbowls of failed cropping in the dry zones to the poisoned soils of the sugar cane plantations in the moist coastal zone.

All of these ecological costs, as well as their social and demographic consequences have historically been regarded as the price of ‘progress'; an unavoidable contingency for which no one could be held responsible. Radioactive waste dumps from uranium mining and processing; asbestos contaminated towns and villages; rivers and oceans polluted with the offal generated by decades of primitive primary industrial processing of minerals, timber and agricultural crops like sugar cane, cacao and sisal. All absolutely free of charge: compliments of the ‘generous’ people of Africa!

The guilty parties gave independence to their colonies – and then walked away from the mess they had created, free of any responsibility for the restoration, decontamination or rehabilitation of the areas they had degraded or polluted! However they were careful not to close the door behind them, and with cleverly designed financial aid programmes (political regime support) have ensured that options to reclaim access to the resources of those countries would be kept open to them.

The current situation

In recent years global demand for consumer goods has grown dramatically, driven by increasingly wasteful consumption in wealthy countries, along with the spending power of growing urban populations in developing nations. Africa has largely escaped this destructive trend, although urbanisation and access to media has had the effect of influencing younger people especially to fall prey to the propaganda of multinational corporations that sell unnecessary and often-harmful products such as flavoured sugar-water, cigarettes, cell phones, alcoholic drinks and sweets.

Demand for basic raw materials has also burgeoned in countries like India, China and Brasil, and this has led to increased competition for available resources. Wealthy countries in the EU have chosen to sit on their own resources, promoting the expansion of timber plantations and agrofuel (biofuel) crops on their own land as a way of ensuring future self-sufficiency in timber and agrofuels. By subsidising food production on their own farming land, global prices have been artificially depressed, making food imports from the South conveniently inexpensive until very recently.

But this has started to change dramatically, mainly as a result of the unanticipated effect of the global scramble for land to produce agrofuels on, but the situation is far more complex than that. It is perhaps no coincidence that events over the past few decades have culminated in a situation where everything seems to favour meeting the greed of energy and commodity gluttons in the North, while Africans and other nations in the South are seeing their resources being siphoned off at an ever-increasing rate.

So what about tree plantations?

Although there are already considerable areas under tree plantations of different kinds in Africa – including cacao, rubber, oil palm, coconut, native and exotic hardwoods, and many different pulpwood species (mainly eucalyptus), a new wave of tree plantation establishment has been launched just recently. However this time it is different in that the objectives of the new projects are ostensibly to help address climate change, which was never a factor in the past.

Some of the new plantations are supposed to serve as carbon sinks, consuming and storing atmospheric carbon in order to offset industrial emissions in the North, and thereby earning tradable carbon credits for their owners. Unfortunately these same trees will be guilty of displacing other vegetation types and land uses that would probably have stored even more carbon than the new plantation could ever have hoped to – even if left to grow indefinitely, and not cut down to be converted into cheap packaging and paper!

Other new industrial pulp wood plantations will simply add to those that already exist to feed the voracious appetites of wealthy consumers in the north for other throw-away products – disposable baby napkins, sanitary pads and assorted paper towels to create extra methane emissions from garbage dumps; millions of tonnes of toilet tissue to be conveniently dumped into oceans and rivers; billions of items of junk mail to lie rotting in drains and gutters, as well as every other kind of paper trash conceivable.

African Oil Palm is being grown mainly in the tropical regions, and expansion of palm-oil plantations also leads to deforestation and degradation of the land. Although it has been identified as a potential source of oil for biodiesel production, high demand and better prices earned from the cosmetics and food industries have ensured that production for biodiesel has not yet been able to take off in Africa. It has been reported on the Forests.org website http://forests.org/shared/alerts/send.aspx?id=ivory_coast_oil_palm that companies including Unilever are trying to establish new oil palm plantations in Cote de Ivoire.

The really extensive land areas being converted to alien tree monocultures are those being promoted by the Jatropha for biodiesel lobby. Already hundreds of thousands of hectares have been planted or earmarked for planting with this incredibly over-hyped tree species. Although it seems there is not a single industrial scale Jatropha biodiesel factory operating successfully anywhere on the planet, this method of producing biodiesel has caught the imaginations of governments, corporations and private investors to the extent that it has become the first choice for many biofuel production project investors. However this has happened as a consequence of a carefully orchestrated campaign based on half-truths and lies, mainly claiming that the trees can produce economic volumes of oil when planted on marginal land and will require no fertilisers and very little water! Another most audacious lie being told about Jatropha is that it will help to ‘re-forest’ and to sequester carbon, and should therefore also qualify for carbon credits! From most accounts it seems that fertile cropland is being taken for Jatropha plantations, forcing food farmers on to marginal land that was supposedly for Jatropha cultivation.

And then the prince of tree plantations for a future Africa! – fast growing genetically engineered trees that will supposedly produce biomass that can be converted directly into bio-ethanol to feed the soaring demands of the road transport industry in Europe. Even though the technology has not yet been fully developed and its costs unquantified; the GE trees not yet created in the laboratory; and the potential environmental impacts established, there are already signs that this could even out-do Jatropha in the hype-stakes! No doubt deals for more African land are being struck right now!

False definitions and messages

With all of these plans to blanket parts of Africa with tree plantations, come whole rafts of falsehoods that are put out by supposedly reputable organisations. Top of the list is the FAO (United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation) whose consistent efforts to define and to mis-represent plantations as forests have contributed enormously to the problem of increased deforestation to clear land for new tree plantations, and with this the displacement and impoverishment of affected local communities. The UNFF (United Nations Forum on Forests) has contributed to the same problem and actively encourages (misleads) African governments to increase tree plantations in their countries.

Another is the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), which has promoted the use of monoculture tree plantations as carbon sinks under the CDM (Clean development Mechanism) of the Kyoto Protocol. The UNFCCC has also approved the use of genetically engineered trees in carbon sinks, showing total in-consideration for the negative impacts on biodiversity that these trees could have.

The FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) has added to the problems created by monoculture tree plantations by certifying many of the worst of them as ‘responsibly managed forests’. Despite ample evidence of the problems around FSC certification of plantations, Greenpeace and WWF -among others- still support and endorse the FSC, and this has led to a situation where most of the new plantations being established are being justified on the basis that similar plantations have already been certified as ‘sustainable’ by FSC. This also has serious implications for the expansion of agrofuel plantations because so-called ‘sustainability criteria’ by which agrofuels can be certified are effectively driving land grabs in Africa.

And so the problem gets bigger, and the people of Africa more impoverished! Business corporations have taken over the role of colonial governments – with a new form of imperialism that has even less regard for the state of the environment and the rights of local communities. Long-term tree plantations are the most effective way of displacing and dis-empowering people. Saw timber hogs the land for a minimum of 25 years; three rotations of eucalyptus pulpwood will tie the land and water up for at least 25 years as well. Jatropha trees are claimed to have a productive life of up to 50 years!

So who cares about the food crisis?

By Wally Menne, Timberwatch Coalition, e-mail: plantnet@iafrica.com, http://www.timberwatch.org.za/

References:

Biofuels in Africa

http://www.wetlands.org/WatchRead/Booksandreports/tabid/1261/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/1958/Biofuels-in-Africa.aspx

Weed’s biofuel potential sparks African land grab

http://www.washtimes.com/news/2007/feb/21/20070221-121047-3895r/?page=3

New studies predict record land grab as demand soars for new sources of food, energy and wood fiber

www.forestpeoples.org/documents/forest_issues/rri_press_rel_new_studies_jul08_eng.pdf

Suspend fresh jatropha planting- Yonge Nawe

http://www.times.co.sz/News/317.html

Jatropha – the agrofuel of the poor?

http://www.grain.org/seedling/?id=480

The western appetite for biofuels is causing starvation in the poor world

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2007/nov/06/comment.biofuels

Secret report: biofuel caused food crisis

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/jul/03/biofuels.renewableenergy

FSC Plantations Certification – Many Wrongs make a Right?

http://www.africanconservation.org/content/view/922/406/

Impacts of Timber Plantations on Forests in South Africa

http://www.fao.org/DOCREP/ARTICLE/WFC/XII/0727-B1.HTM

8 / 2008 at 8:29 pm 21 comments

Logging in Liberia: reform process or business as usual?

Liberia has just emerged from a civil crisis. The sanction on the exportations of Liberian Timber was lifted in 2006 by the United Nations Security Council UNSC. The timber industry, which provided substantial revenue for government, is closed pending the completion of a forestry reform process.

But unemployment is at an alarming rate. There is an increased demand for timber on the international market and the interest of commercial logging companies is clearly seen on the table; all these presently stand as factors to undermine the on-going forestry reform process if the government does not complete this process. If the reform process is not carried through to a logical conclusion, there is a high possibility of starting business as usual in the sector.

On July 31 2008, the NGO Coalition of Liberia (1) issued a press release accusing the government of Liberia of putting the reform process in jeopardy (2). The coalition expressed fear that the reform process is gradually failing because the FDA (Forest Department Authority) is flagrantly violating the reform law and lowering the standards by which logging companies are to be evaluated. For example, most of the companies that bided for new Forest Management Contracts, some totaling up to 120,000 hectares, lack both financial and technical capacity to implement those contracts. None of them has prior logging experience and none meets the minimum requirement for capital investment.

The granting of two Timber Sales Contracts and one Forest Management Contract on privately deeded land belonging to communities in Gbarpolu County (3) does not only violate the law but it is a very strong recipe for conflict between the state and the people on one hand, and the people and the logging companies on the other hand when logging starts. In a resolution presented to the county leadership in mid July, those communities said they would resist any attempt to log on their land without their consent and approval. The refusal of the FDA to provide information to the communities, which they requested since May this year, goes against the spirit and intent of the reformed forestry law which provides for public access to information from the FDA; the fact that their request for information focused on the circumstances surrounding the identification of their land for these contracts makes it even more suspect.

Additionally, the failure of the Government of Liberia to establish a debarment list of the 17 companies barred from entering the sector and failure of the FDA to respond to questions raised by the public surrounding the undervaluing and miscalculation of the volume of abandoned logs sold to Unitimber, a Lebanese owned logging company, all point to a failing system.

There is growing fear in many quarters that the forestry sector is gradually sliding back into the old ways of doing business. Some observers and experts say if these issues are not properly addressed before logging starts there is no doubt that the rule of law would be seriously compromised and the sector would once again descend into anarchy. Also there are high possibilities for logging companies who plundered the logging industry to return to the sector.

This is bad news if the Government of Liberia is determined to reopen the sector by October 2008, regardless of the challenges facing the sector. Local communities will once again be put at risk and logging barons will be laughing all the way to European and Chinese markets with Liberian timber.

“Liberia hosts the last two significant blocks of the remaining closed canopy tropical rainforest within the Upper Guinea Forests of West Africa; this is largely due to the fact that Liberia’s forest and natural resource especially timber was sustainably managed before the Liberian civil crisis. The Upper guinea Forests has now shrunk to an estimated 12.7% of its original size –estimated to be 727,900 square-kilometers. Almost 42% of this remaining forest is in Liberia.

Although other factors contribute to the problem of deforestation in Liberia, logging companies have remained the single most destructive force and were responsible for the larger percentage of deforestation. For example, from 1997 to 2001, log production increased by more than a staggering 1,300%.

Unsurprisingly, this had an enormous impact on indigenous rural communities and local people who depend on the land and the forest for their livelihood. Their cultural and spiritual practices are so dependent on the forest that, with the rapid loss of forest, the survival and growth of these communities was severely endangered.

The livelihood of rural people, the overwhelming percentage of Liberians, is inextricably linked to the forest. They depend on the land and the forest for food, clean water, medicine and other forest products for survival. Their relationship with the forest is the cornerstone for their cultural and spiritual practices. For instance, in the Poro and Sande societies, traditional bush schools can only be conducted in very isolated highly-forested areas, where hunting and survival skills are taught. Traditional legal institutions, especially those involving elders and Zoes (elders who make up the supreme decision making body in rural communities) usually sit in the deep forest to hear cases of grave significance to the people. Because the forest is so central to their lives, the destruction of the forest will ultimately have severe consequences for future generations.

The Oriental Timber Company was symbolic of what has been wrong with the Liberian logging industry. From Grand Bassa through Rivercess to Sinoe County, the company spearheaded the destruction of the forest.

This fragmentation of the forest significantly contributed to the massive displacement of wildlife while rendering them vulnerable to hunting. Contrary to what the logging companies explain is development, roads constructed by them were primarily to facilitate harvesting and delivery of logs. Several dozen logging roads, of absolutely no value to local people when the company moved out, severely fragmented the forest.

The most noticeable social impact on local communities where logging companies set up bush-camps was the introduction of prostitution, drugs, alcohol and gangsterism. Most teenage girls involved in prostitution only returned to their homes when they realized that they were pregnant.” (text excerpted from “Plunder, the silent destruction of Liberian rainforest” SAMFU, http://www.samfu.org/do%20files/samfu_plunder_report_sept_2002.pdf)

When the mining sector was shut down the logging industry was one of the highest foreign exchange earners for the Government of Liberia. However, rural people who are the traditional custodians of the forest did not benefit from revenue generated by the industry.

At the end of the Liberian crisis, local and international stakeholders recommended a reform of the forestry sector. The Government of Liberia accepted and initiated a reform process. A Forestry Concession Review Committee (FCRC) was established in 2004.

The FCRC conducted a comprehensive review of the sector and in its report of May 2005 confirmed the collapse of the rule of law in the sector during the years of the crisis; a situation widely reported by national and international NGOs during the war but ignored until 2003. The report further revealed that approximately U$64 million dollars in tax arrears remain uncollected and detailed how Charles Taylor and his cronies joined forces to loot Liberia. The committee recommended the cancellation of all forest concessions and the debarment of 17 companies including the Oriental Timber Company and their significant individuals (4) who were proven to have aided and abetted the civil crisis in Liberia.

In 2006, the Government of Liberia accepted the recommendation and cancelled all concessions in the forestry sector. But two years on, the Government continue to resist calls for the establishment of the list of debarred individuals and companies; once again putting political expediency over the rule of law.

By Robert L. Nyahn, Forest & Human Rights Program Office of SAMFU Foundation, e-mail: samfu1@yahoo.com, r.nyahn@samfu.org

[1] The NGOs Coalition for Liberia is an informal network of organizations working to promote sustainable management of natural resources in Liberia. The Coalition comprises of fifteen (15) organizations working on a range of issues relating to natural resource management and conservation.

[2] See Reform in Jeopardy: reflection on the forest sector process in Liberia on http://www.loggingoff.info

[3] The communities present their land deed to the FDA upon request of the FDA prior to the granting of the concessions

[4] Significant individuals refer to Board members, shareholders and senior officials of the company.

8 / 2008 at 8:21 pm 6 comments

The problems faced by Gabon’s forests and the communities that depend on them: a menu of logging, dams, oil, mining, parks, railways, roads, ports

In Gabon, forests and the communities that depend on them for survival face a range of different problems. The logging industry is one of the most serious. On the one hand, it does not benefit local communities in any way. At the same time, the majority of the forestry companies operating in the country (particularly those from Asia, with China and Malaysia in the lead) do not respect any technical standards, and cut trees that do not meet the minimum diameter requirements, for example.

There are also other problems related to the creation of national parks. A number of these parks have been established without any consultation with the local populations living in the surrounding area, many of whom have traditionally used areas within the parks’ boundaries for certain activities (hunting, fishing camps, religious ceremonies) but are now cut off from access to them. As a result, conflicts are brewing on the periphery of a number of these parks, since local communities have not been offered any concrete alternatives.

In addition, although the country has good forestry legislation (Law 016/01, which established the Forestry Code), the traditional land use rights of local communities are neither respected nor fully implemented. No concrete measures have been taken to raise awareness among local populations about their rights, while the staff of the forestry service, which is understaffed as it is, are more prone to punish than to inform.

The country’s forests are also facing pressure due to the granting of permits for oil and mining exploration and extraction in protected areas. In most cases, there are no environmental impact assessments undertaken before these activities are initiated, and in cases when studies are conducted, they are never published in time for other stakeholders to validate them. A prime example today is the infamous Bélinga iron ore mining project in the province of Ogooué-Ivindo. The main iron ore deposit is in Bélinga, with others in Baouala, BokaBoka and Minkébé. The project covers a vast region that is home to numerous communities who rely on fishing for their own sustenance and as a source of income.

A project on this scale requires considerable infrastructure development. A hydroelectric dam is already under construction, and the Gabonese railway will be extended to connect the mining facilities in Bélinga with a deepwater port that is to be built north of Libreville. Work will also be needed on the roads and highways in the province of Ogooué-Ivindo. While all of these projects will undoubtedly contribute to the region’s development (through improved transportation and greater energy resources), they will also have serious negative impacts on local populations and the environment.

The building of the hydroelectric dam on the Ivindo River is already a reality, and the corresponding construction work at Kongou Falls has not been suspended, contrary to some press reports. The Chinese companies undertaking the project received authorization to commence work on the basis of an environmental impact assessment that was supposedly validated by the competent agencies of the Ministry of the Environment, but not by environmentalist NGOs, which were never given access to the report. Considerable damage has already been wrought by the clearing of forests to build a highway to the area, construct a platform and prepare the site for the dam and hydroelectric plant. An infrastructure project like this can have major consequences for both Ivindo National Park and neighbouring communities.

The main environmental impacts of a dam are felt by local populations, river species, and the ecosystem as a whole. Changing the course and volume of a river to build a dam can have serious consequences. In particular, the flooding of the site where the dam is constructed can lead to the displacement of local human populations against their will, as well as damaging or destroying land and water ecosystems upstream, promoting the spread of diseases like malaria, and degrading water quality. Changes in the water flowing downstream can threaten other uses of the river and profoundly impact the ecosystems that depend on it.

With regard to local populations, there is no doubt that they will suffer the consequences of the dam, primarily as a result of the impact on their fishing areas. As for the natural environment, the site chosen for the dam is considered the most beautiful waterfall in Central Africa. It is also located inside a national park whose natural wealth has been recognized by both researchers and nature lovers for many decades, a fact that amply confirms the importance of protecting this ecosystem.

It is truly unfortunate that the Kongou Falls were chosen as the site to build the dam for purely economic reasons, with no regard for local populations or the area’s natural wealth.

There are countless examples of the negative impacts of dams, and in Africa many projects of this kind have run into problems due to poor management and a lack of awareness of the potential consequences.

In addition to the dam, the iron ore mining venture will require other new infrastructure, like the extension of the railway from Boué to Bélinga and from Ntoum to Santa Clara (where there are plans to build a deepwater port).

In this regard as well, there is a glaring lack of information available. The original plans for the ambitious Trans-Gabon railway project drawn up in 1964 by the Foley Brothers firm connected Owendo with Bélinga via the village of Mananga. Is this route still being considered? If it is, then what will happen to the settlements that will be crossed by the new railway line? When will their inhabitants be informed? In addition, the railway would pass by a number of nature reserves. What impacts will it have on Ivindo National Park, Akanda National Park and the Mondah Forest?

Article 17 of Law Nº 003/2007 of 27 August 2007, on national parks, stipulates that “on the periphery of national parks, projects involving industry, mining, quarries, hydroelectric dams, land subdivision, tourism facilities or the building of linear infrastructure, primarily railways, electric power lines, oil pipelines, gas pipelines and railways, are subject to an environmental impact assessment.”

The Bélinga project includes the construction of a deepwater port off the Santa Clara cape, which also raises questions around the consequences for the environment, nearby protected areas, local populations and the tourism industry.

The Ivindo River is the primary source of income for the villages of Mananga and Loaloa, whose inhabitants depend on it for fishing and sand extraction. This is why it is essential to do everything possible to protect the rivers that could be affected by the Bélinga mining project. But in addition to threatening these income-generating activities, the iron ore mine and hydroelectric dam could have other consequences for local communities. While the people living in the area hope that these new ventures will create jobs, they have voiced their concern over the lack of information provided to them about the project’s implementation, as well as its impacts and consequences. They are also waiting to be consulted about their needs and expectations. Their concerns are reflected in the letters from local villages attached to a report on the potential environmental impacts of the Bélinga project, recently released by the Gabonese NGO Brainforest.

This article is based on the report “Ivindo, notre source de vie” (Ivindo, Our Life Source) by Landry Lebas, published in July 2008 (http://www.brainforest.org/Rapport_Ivindo_Brainforest.pdf), and personal communication with Essono Ondo, project manager at the Gabonese NGO Brainforest, email: essono.ondopj@gmail.com, http://www.brainforest.org

8 / 2008 at 8:19 pm 15 comments

Uganda: Forests, communities and women

The current development patterns and inequities in the country present a number of forest management challenges.

Industrialization today is synonymous with cutting down of natural forests like what has been done to Namanve forest where a Coca-Cola plant was constructed, Kalangala island in lake Victoria which was cleared in favour of oil palm oil plantations and the proposed plans of cutting down Mabira tropical rainforest in favour of sugarcane growing. Forests are also faced with the problem of pollution, particularly from industries such as Nile breweries, Mukwano group of industries and substandard incinerators land fills.

It is on those forests that many communities depend on, including most communities that live along major forests in the country like Mabira, Bwindi impenetrable forest and Kibale forest reserve among others. There are other smaller forests in the country which are also important to the communities ecologically, culturally and spiritually.

As “development” takes root, many of these forest-dependent communities are faced with a number of problems including continuously being displaced and increasingly forced to migrate into ecologically fragile and low productive areas, where forests and trees play a key role. The degraded physical environments, providing increasingly limited resources for an increasing population, result in the deterioration of the productive capacity of the ecosystems, the very base for production of renewable natural resources. The communities living in the vicinity of such forests and dependent on the forest are in most cases forcefully evicted for the benefit of a few individual investors. The forest-dependent communities are vulnerable and these investments, that threaten communities’ identities and interests.

Political instability is also a major cause of displacement of populations. Where people have been displaced either by war or other natural calamities, the only place they can run to is the forest because it is the only place that is perceived as vacant. Refugee camps have enormous impact on forests and their use. For example, the Kyangwali refugee camp in Hoima district was formerly occupied by forest vegetation but was later cut down, as in the case of the Internally Displaced camps in Gulu district in northern Uganda.

Another problem encountered by forest communities has to do with protected areas. Traditionally, communities have been excluded from participation in the decision making in the management of protected forest areas. They have been denied harvesting rights and use of the forest resources. Even the cooperate fund is not ploughed back directly into communities within the periphery of the forest resource whose user rights are denied or compromised.

Apart from being denied user rights, forest dependent communities are often denied their rights to practice indigenous knowledge in the management of forests. This has often resulted in degradation of the resource, since the communities loose the sense of ownership and therefore loose the will to participate in forest management.

The position of women, defined by gender relations in patriarchal societies in all regions of the world and in Uganda in particular, is similarly disadvantaged. For instance, in Uganda women do not own land where trees grow, and they do not own trees and they are not key stakeholders in most communities and therefore do not determine how a forest may be used. They are the excluded within the excluded.

Cultural values and norms in Uganda vary from community to community, but institutional structures perpetuating women’s gender based subordination and exclusion from ownership and control over resources are in place in almost all communities. Though women are those who depend most on these resources, they continue to be marginalized.

By Frank Muramuzi, NAPE, e-mail: nape@nape.or.ug, http://www.nape.or.ug/

8 / 2008 at 8:15 pm 8 comments

An overview of the problems faced by Mozambique’s forests, forest-dependent peoples and forest workers

Mozambique is a country rich in forest resources, with a total forest area of approximately 40.6 million hectares and 14.7 million hectares of other wooded areas (DNTF, 2007). Most provinces have vast areas of unspoiled, beautiful forests, from where rural communities acquire several goods for subsistence as well as for cultural and spiritual reasons. Forest diversity is however poorly documented due to several reasons such as the vastness of the country, poor transport network, the long-lasting civil war, and the general lack of human and financial resources.

Productive forests (forest areas demarcated for the production and exploitation of wood) cover about 26.9 million hectares, while 13 million hectares have been defined as areas not suitable for the production of wood, where most of the National Parks and Forest Reserves are situated. The forests that have some sort of legal protection or conservation status cover some 22% of the total forest cover of Mozambique.

The most extensive forest type – occupying approximately two thirds of the country – is the so called Miombo Forest. This type of forest occupies vast areas in the central and northern regions of Mozambique and is also important for local people. Main uses include source of firewood, charcoal and medicinal plants, source of nutrients and soil fertilisers, through fires and recycling of leaf material, and as a source of food for domestic animals. Due to its generally fertile soils, Miombo forests are also used for agriculture (Moçambique, 2003).

The Miombo forest is characterised by a dense vegetation cover, with deciduous and semi-deciduous trees, often reaching between 10 and 20 metres. Fire is an important ecological component in these forests, allowing seed germination and soil nitrification. Thunderstorms at the start of the rainy season can easily set the vegetation alight, however, the green vegetation and moist soils prevent the fires from spreading.

The second most extensive forest type found in the country is the Mopane Forest, occurring especially in the Limpopo­-Save area and upper Zambezi Valley, characterised predominantly by the occurrence of trees and bushes.

The unsuitability of the soils and the occurrence of large numbers of fauna in the Mopane forests resulted in the conservation of large areas, such as those forming the Banhine, Zinave and Gorongosa Parks in Mozambique.

Generally, the North of the country has denser and less exploited forests than southern Mozambique (Micoa, 1998).

People, forests and forest exploitation

Although Mozambique has shown increasing rates of economic growth, “differentiation is also increasing, with most of the growth in GDP going to the top 20%, while the spread between the poor, the very poor and extremely poor is increasing” (Hanlon, 2007).

The majority of Mozambicans live in rural areas, relying on natural resources for daily livelihoods. Subsistence agriculture is practiced by the majority of the rural poor, and commercialisation of products only takes place when there is surplus production. Approximately 7% of the population has access to electricity – the remaining makes use of firewood, charcoal, petrol and gas. The collection of firewood and the production of charcoal for cooking and heating represent 85% of the total energy consumption in the country.

Timber and precious woods are also used by communities for the construction of houses and for arts and crafts, particularly carvings and sculptures. Non wood forest products (NWFPs) include medicinal plants, grass, bamboo, reed and veldt foods such as wild vegetables, fruit and tubers, amongst others. Most of these NWFPs are not marketed by local communities, largely due to a lack of infrastructure and the difficulties in accessing towns and markets. The result is that mats, baskets, chairs and beds made out of grass are sold mainly along main roads.

Land Law and the Forest and Wildlife Law

Two sets of laws govern and protect forest resource stakeholders: the Land Law of 1997 and the Forestry and Wildlife Law of 1999, with regulations approved only in 2002. The Land Law (1997) recognises and protects traditional rights to land, including forests. The Forest and Wildlife Law (1999) delineates the rights and benefits of forest dependent local communities, such as: subsistence level use of the resources; participation in the co-­management of forest resources; community consultation and approval prior to allocation of exploitation rights to third parties; development benefits derived from timber production under a concession regime.

The Land Law of 1997 recognises community’s rights to land and makes community consultation compulsory when assigning rights of use to a second party. It also has a limited recognition of customary rights as a means to defend women’s rights (Negrão, 1999). Although communities can utilise any forest product for their own consumption, they are not allowed to commercialise these products without a license (Norfolk et al., 2004).

The Forest and Wildlife Law was aimed at sustainable forest resource management, and to create a more effective structure for the generation and distribution of related tax revenue. Central to this law is the concept of Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM), which has been largely embraced in Southern Africa as a “decentralisation process aimed at giving grass roots institutions the power of decision making and rights to control their resources” (Nhantumbo et all, 2003).

One of the main drawbacks of the Forest Law is that it does not include the criteria of occupancy in relation to communities claiming resource rights. The law only offers some protection in relation to subsistence activities. Therefore, it has to be concluded that the two laws governing forest utilisation contradict each other substantially, as the Land Law enables the transfer of real rights to land, while the Forest and Wildlife Law restricts resource use to non-commercial subsistence levels only, making compulsory the application for a licence for commercial resource use (Norfolk et al., 2004). Thus, the Forest and Wildlife Law puts local communities on the same playing field as the private sector and international companies, which means they have to apply for licences and implement management plans in the same way as does the private sector, despite the fact that they lack both financial and technical resources to do so.

Threats to forests – illegal logging

According to the 2007 national forest inventory, the main cause of deforestation in the country is human pressure in the form of burning forest areas to open cultivation areas, firewood collection and charcoal production. The annual deforestation rate in the country is estimated at about 219.000 hectares per year, equivalent to a change of 0.58% annually (DNTF, 2007).

Despite the Inventory’s suggestion that deforestation rates are directly related to population numbers per province, there are several studies indicating that the main causes of deforestation are illegal and unsustainable logging, and, to a lesser extent, forest fires.

However, human-made fires have become widespread in the country, to the extent that they have changed the fire rotation period, timing and intensity in several miombo forests of northern Mozambique. These actions have major impacts on the survival rates of seeds and younger plants, as the period between fires has been dramatically reduced. Furthermore, the slow growth rate of miombo forest plants makes them incapable of reaching a safe size before the next fire.

The illegal forest exploitation has been a well documented problem and, based on estimations of a study by DNFFB and FAO (2003), clandestine timber production in Mozambique may account for between 50 and 70% of the total national production.

On a recent visit to Cabo Delgado province, communities complained about the extensive logging occurring around their villages, high numbers of abandoned logs in the forest (this happens when forest operators find even the smallest of defects on logs, leaving them behind to no use), the indiscriminate logging of small and large trees, nocturnal activity of forest operators (an illegal activity in Mozambique), and the number of foreign operators in the province.

The mechanism of channelling 20% of forest revenues (1) to local communities has been poorly implemented, with only a few communities receiving the money since its implementation. There are several constraints around this mechanism, felt by both the Province Forest and Wildlife Service (Serviços Provinciais de Floresta e Fauna Bravia) and local communities such as high costs involved in the process, weak dissemination of the law, excessive bureaucracy, lack of communication between different actors, rigid bank mechanisms related to the opening of accounts by local communities, weak civil society, amongst others. For those communities which eventually receive the 20%, there are also problems related to their capacity to manage the money and eventual projects that they may want to implement.

There are other issues affecting community members including the inhumane conditions, backlog of salaries, below minimum wage salaries and lack of contract within the forest sector. For the olheiros (men which walk long distances inside a forest spotting the best valuable trees for logging), the salary is about 1000 Mtn/month, while for a lumberjack is about 700 Mtn/month (2).

The logging teams work in extremely precarious conditions, without access or very weak access to safety gear such as helmets, gloves, masks or boots. No first aid or medical support, which makes any basic injury a major risk and deaths are common. There is a lack of basic amenities such as water. The workers are often forced to use the due (moisture) on the leaves and grasses early in the morning in order to get clean. This lack of amenities further increases health issues.

Government enforcement capacity is extremely weak. Illegal logging is therefore widespread, with forest operators often cutting way above the allowed licensed volume, transporting logs without documentation, logging trees with sizes below the legal diameter, and uprooting trees for export.

Besides the lack of capacity and funds, the co-partnership of fines (3), another legal mechanism implemented aiming to improve forest management and control illegal logging, is nearly inexistent.

During a field visit, communities also mentioned that they often catch previously caught illegal operators back in the field, doing the usual work. In some extreme cases, it was reported that not only did the individuals caught return to the logging area, but threatened the community guards involved in the process. This breaks the trust of the communities in the system and questions the usefulness of placing time and resources in helping with the monitoring of forests.

In an interview with the provincial director of customs (Customs Provincial Directorate, Pemba, 21st of August 2007) he commented on the system’s corruption, such as the under reporting of volumes, false registry of cargo and wood species, and illegal export of raw logs of 1st class wood species (4) or planks bigger than the legal size of 10 cm thick. The Asian exporters dominate the market, having a major interest in raw logs because the main destination (China) does not impose taxes (or imposes very low taxes) on raw logs, but does impose significant taxes on processed woods. Various interviewees commented that the taxes in China were the main reason for the interest in raw logs, and not the high inefficiency of the processing mills (around 50%) in Mozambique, because the losses are covered by the processing mills and not by the Asian buyers, who pay for final product’s volume.

Centralisation is yet another setback in the forest sector. Many of the administrative districts do not have copies of the forest licenses or concessions which fall within their district boundaries. Local governments are rarely involved in the channelling of 20% of forest revenues to local communities.

At the same time, the country seems to be now directing efforts towards the development of strategies for the production of agrofuels and plantations. On a recent visit throughout Mozambique, it became evident that most provinces, administrative posts and localities are eager for agrofuel projects, which are seen as a way out of poverty. There are several plans for the production of agrofuels and ethanol, mainly from jartropha and sugar cane. Depending on the scale and location of these plans, they may become one of the biggest threats to deforestation in Mozambique, as forest areas will be lost to plantations, and rural communities, dependent on agriculture and the collection of forest products will be further marginalised.

It has been said that if deforestation rates continue to grow, the resource base will be depleted in 5 to 10 years time. This will force local communities to migrate to degraded land, putting at risk local livelihoods. Will alternative livelihoods be provided for the rural poor? Can Mozambican cities sustain massive immigration?

The need to protect Mozambican forests and hence local livelihoods is an urgent matter and should be a priority in the State’s agenda, rather than developing reforestation plans and agrofuel projects, which will end up competing for forested land, while putting at risk forest dependent communities.

By Vera Ribeiro, e-mail: veruribeiro@gmail.com. The full version of the article is available at: http://www.wrm.org.uy/countries/Africaspeaks/Overview_problems_Mozambique_forests.pdf

[1] Decree No. 12 of 2002 stipulates that 20% of the value of access, exploitation and utilisation fees of forest products should be channelled to local communities.

[2] 24 Mtn equals approximately 1 USD.

[3] Decree no 12/2002 of 6 June establishes that 50 % of the value of fines derived from the transgression of the forest and wildlife law shall be attributed to law enforcement officials, community agents and local communities involved in the exposure.

[4] Article 12 of Decree 12/2002 forbids the export f logs for precious woods, first, second, third and fourth class species, allowing first class wood species to be exported after being processed in the country

8 / 2008 at 8:12 pm 1 comment

Democratic Republic of the Congo: The search for consensus on the Itombwe forests

The Itombwe Massif lies northwest of Lake Tanganyika (28º02′-29º04′ E, 2º41’ 3º52′ S), stretching over a vast area of 1,600 km2 that encompasses the territories of Mwenga, Fizi and Uvira. It forms part of the Mitumba mountain range, with altitudes ranging from 60 metres above sea level in the western portion to 3,475 metres (Mount Mohi) in the north, with numerous peaks of 2,000 metres or higher, then abruptly dropping to 770 metres in the east, where it borders on Lake Tanganyika.

The Itombwe Massif is an internationally recognised conservation area due to the extraordinary biodiversity of its forests, which need to be protected through rational use. However, its enviable wealth of farming, mining, forestry, water, tourism and cultural resources has been a constant source of conflict and war, leading to the ongoing suffering of the forest dwellers. Geographical isolation has also been an obstacle to economic development in this region, so rich in biodiversity yet forgotten by the rest of the world.

The peoples of the Itombwe Massif forests have never opposed their conservation or the designation of this site as a nature reserve. Their good will has been reflected in numerous ways, from the reception offered to visitors and delegations who come to the region to conduct research, to their response to invitations to participate in meetings on the subject and the statements made by their traditional chiefs.

At the same time, however, the traditional chiefs of Itombwe are firmly opposed to any attempts to convert the region into a strict nature reserve, because their peoples’ livelihoods and survival depend entirely on the forests. (Declaration of traditional chiefs of Itombwe, in French, at http://www.wrm.org.uy/countries/Africaspeaks/RDC_massif_forestier_dItombwe.pdf)

At a series of meetings held in recent years – in Kamituga on 23 September 2005, Bukavu on 9 April 2006, Kitopo/Itombwe on 28 and 29 June 2007 and a forum held 24 and 25 June 2008 in Bukavu, capital of the province of South Kivu – the traditional chiefs of Itombwe have reaffirmed their support for the protection of the forest’s flora and fauna, but have emphasised the need to guarantee the physical and cultural integrity of the local populations, given that the Itombwe forests play an essential role in the survival of their traditional, cultural and spiritual practices. They have also stressed their concern over the classification of the region with regard to the application of forestry legislation, particularly in relation to the interests of local communities and indigenous peoples when it comes to the implementation of participatory conservation mechanisms.

The forum held on 24 and 25 June 2008 in Bukavu was organised by the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation (ICCN) and the WWF to seek the harmonisation of viewpoints of all parties involved regarding the conservation of the Itombwe forests. The Itombwe traditional chiefs once again had the opportunity to explain the five traditional practices that have allowed for the forest to be preserved since time immemorial. They noted that “the conservation method of the Bembe tribe, who make up the majority of the forest’s population, is so ancient that it dates back to the dawn of time of humankind.” This method can be summed up in five points, which until today have ensured a degree of environmental conservation worthy of considerable pride:

  1. The year is divided into two seasons, the hunting season and the closed season.
  2. The hunting of certain animal species viewed as guardian spirits is strictly forbidden, and can be punished by death or even the extermination of the hunter’s entire family.
  3. Women and children are prohibited from eating certain species of animals and plants.
  4. Some animals and plants can only be eaten by the traditional chiefs, known locally as “bami”.
  5. It is forbidden to hunt in certain areas reserved as breeding grounds or for the practice of traditions and customs, such as ceremonies and ritual sacrifices.

In addition, both the traditional chiefs and NGOs that defend the rights of the forest dwellers have consistently stressed, in every possible local, national and international forum, than any strategy for natural resource management that excludes local communities is doomed to fail.

The conservation of the Itombwe forests must be participatory, and take into account the views of the forest communities and the five traditional conservation practices outlined by the chiefs. Any system implemented must allow for the immediate economic needs of the local populations to be met, so that the Itombwe Massif’s rich biodiversity can be preserved in a community-centred, sustainable manner, in the interest and with the participation of the people who live there, integrating conservation and development to tap the full potential of the region.

The forum held 24 and 25 June 2008 to reconcile the differences between the various stakeholders resulted in the establishing of a framework for ongoing consultation and dialogue, where all parties can voice their needs and expectations. It remains to be seen how effectively this process will work.

By: TRAFFED, Congolese NGO at the Itombwe Mountains, MAGUNDA/MWENGA, e-mail: traffedbukavudrc@yahoo.fr. Article sent by Pastor Jean-Pierre Ibucwa Lipanda, Coordinator of TRAFFED.

8 / 2008 at 8:10 pm 2 comments

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