State of the Forests of Central Africa 2021

Central Africa forests: A lifeline for all of humanity faced with the climate crisis and the extinction of the elements of biodiversity
Photo Axel Fassio/CIFOR

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Nearly 9% ​​tropical rainforests area in Central Africa has disappeared since the year 2000, about 18 million hectares in total, according to the seventh State of the Forests (SOF) of the Congo Basin report. These research results carried on vast expanses of undisturbed dense forests highlight the importance of the degradation and deforestation process of these ecosystems.

The contributions of the Congo Basin forests to the economies of Central African countries are diverse. A major part of the contribution of forests to the socio-economic development of Central African countries is visible in the value chains of non-timber forest products, wood energy and the exploitation of wildlife for food purposes – although these value chains are still dominated by the informal sector. It is currently recognized that these forests located in the Congo Basin play a world-leading role in carbon sequestration through their ecosystems and peatlands.

Published by the Commission for Forest of Central Africa (COMIFAC) through its technical unit, the Observatory of Forests of Central Africa (OFAC), the SOF report has become over the years a reference document at the regional and international levels. It is of particular benefit to all interested in the management of forest ecosystems in Central Africa and their role in the balance of the planet and the issues that guide their future.

The report is produced periodically to present the forest ecosystems of Central Africa and their management environment and to put in perspective the forest ecosystems of the Congo Basin in the global context characterized by debates that will guide the management of the world’s tropical forests in decades to come. It also addresses current topics such as peatland management and the relationship between the management of biodiversity resources and the emergence or re-emergence of zoonotic diseases, including COVID-19, which particularly affected the context of its writing.

Consisting of 4 parts and 13 chapters, the SOF 2021 draws the attention of Central African states to two international instruments for which the contribution of forests is monitored by all countries in the world: the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations and the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The previous edition of the State of the Congo Basin Forests report dated 2015 focused on climate change. This topic remains valid, but with new variants that have increasingly occupied forest management stakeholders between 2015 and 2021. This report promotes the implementation of strategies and policies to combat “imported deforestation” and the management of vast areas of peatlands whose discovery in the Congo Basin caused a worldwide sensation,’ explains Richard Eba’a, CIFOR-ICRAF’s Regional Convener, and principal editor of the report.

Achieving the goal of sustainable management of forest ecosystems in Central Africa in the present context is not without challenges. SOF 2021 focuses on three of them: land use-planning, restoration of degraded forest landscapes and taking into account the rights of populations. Among the suggested options for overcoming these challenges are the development of public policies allowing for land-use planning to create conditions for development compatible with better management of their resources while ensuring economic development to fight against poverty and consider the diversity of customary rights in the management of forest areas. Positioning the State at the center of the management of these areas, with regulations adapted to the realities on the ground could also be beneficial.

The conclusions of the report note that the survival of the human species is inherent to the sustainable management of the rather fragile ecosystems of the forests of the Congo Basin and their fate should be perceived as a common responsibility of the countries of Central Africa and the international community.

Despite the constraints presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, this report was developed with an inclusive approach of broad consultation. The topics covered were defined during a regional workshop organized in Brazzaville in February 2018 with the participation of experts from all member countries of the Commission for Central African Forests (COMIFAC), joined by international scientists involved in the monitoring and management of the Congo Basin forests.

The French version of the report was launched at the 19th Meeting of the Parties of the Congo Basin Forest Partnership, and the English version was released last week. The research received support from the European Commission through the RIOFAC project.

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Topic(s) :   Climate change