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Progressive approach brings new hope to forest conservation

A new binding agreement augers hope for the rainforests of central Africa. Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) President Félix Tshisekedi and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson signed an agreement in cooperation with the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI) to limit deforestation over the next ten years. 

DRC governs the world’s second largest rainforest, the Congo, home to stunning biodiversity as well as indigenous cultures. The country also has one of the most progressive approaches to tackling deforestation in Africa. 

Community based forest management allows communities to define the parameters of conservation based on their customary forest uses. This approach helps to protect the forest while meeting the demands of the community that depends on it. 

“Protecting rainforests is paramount to solving the climate and biodiversity crises, and keeping these forests intact is necessary for sustainable development in Africa,” said Toerris Jaeger, Secretary General of Rainforest Foundation in Norway. 

The agreement made ambitious goals to preserve the remaining intact rain forest. For these lofty goals to be met, industrial activities already rampant in the area must be curtailed. 

“Land-use planning and forest reforms are key instruments to forest protection. Land rights of local communities and the sustainable use of the forest should form the basis for better land use policies,” said Jaeger.

Currently, the land rights of indigenous people are not well enforced, and changing this seems to be key to protecting forests going forward. President Tshisekedi has promised to make indigenous rights a priority. 

“If you aspire to sustainable development, you need to secure indigenous land rights and their governance systems for effective rainforest protection. Because without rainforests, we will not be able to cope with climate change, and there will be no development,” said Patrick Saidi Hemedi, national coordinator of the Dynamic of the Indigenous Peoples’ Groups (DGPA).

Last April, the DRC National Assembly voted to strengthen indigenous peoples’ rights, a bill which will soon be submitted to the Senate for a vote. President Tshisekedi has already committed himself to indigenous peoples’ land rights. 

The DRC stands at a point in history where they have the real ability to be a leader in protecting forests in Central Africa. 

By Zach Fitzner, Staff Writer

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