In terms of natural resource endowment, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is one of the wealthiest countries in Africa. However its citizenry are amongst the poorest in the world. Some of the most impoverished and politically marginalized people – indigenous and local forest communities - live here. They mostly rely upon forests and other natural resources to secure their basic livelihoods through subsistence forest hunting and gathering, and small-scale agriculture. These forest peoples currently have little or no influence over national and provincial decisions about how their customary lands will be used by commercial or conservation groups, whose interests are often in conflict with forest communities’ needs, priorities and basic human rights.
In Africa, Asia and Latin America alike, forest peoples are speaking out against the continuing violations of their rights imposed by development and conservation plans that ignore their interests and deny them a voice. They go beyond resistance, insisting on their own ways of managing their lives, lands and forests.
Conservation organisations have been making great strides towards recognising that protected areas must respect the rights of indigenous peoples as enshrined in international law, including the right to give or withhold their free prior and informed consent to the establishment of new protected areas in their customary territories. Yet in practice conservation organisations often continue to exclude local people from using forest and other resources, and only consult them after they have drawn up management plans rather than jointly writing them.
In 2009 a group of Batwa representatives from Uganda travelled to Ogiek communities in Kenya to learn about their situation and the different advocacy strategies they were using. One of these strategies was the use of Participatory 3-Dimensional Modelling (P3DM), which helped the Ogiek engage Kenyan agencies on their rights to their ancestral territory, the Mau Forest. The Batwa walked away from this visit impressed by the simplicity of the P3DM technique and hopeful of replicating it in their own context.
Two years later in June 2011, the Batwa, with support from the ARCUS Foundation, began their own three-dimensional modelling of their ancestral territory, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. More than 100 representatives from the Batwa communities surrounding Bwindi, including youth, elders, women and men attended the exercise over a three-week period.
Forest Peoples Programme staff recently visited forest communities in Equateur province, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), who they have been supporting since 2009 with information-sharing and consultation meetings related to REDD and conflict prevention. During training and project monitoring visits FPP and our local partner CEDEN (Cercle pour la defense de l'environnement) held public meetings with around 2000 forest people from across the Lac Tumba conservation landscape.
Update 3rd August 2011
The concept note for pilot Whakatane Assessment has been finalized. You can download it here
As mentioned in Forest Peoples Programme’s February E-Newsletter, a meeting was held at the IUCN CEESP Sharing Power conference in Whakatane, New Zealand, January 2011, between indigenous representatives, the chairs of three IUCN commissions (CEESP, WCPA and SSC) and sub-commissions (TILCEPA and TGER), key staff of the IUCN secretariat (the Director of the Environment and Development Programme and the Senior Adviser on Social Policy), and other staff from IUCN, Conservation International and Forest Peoples Programme.
The main outcome of the meeting and subsequent follow-up discussions was an agreement to implement a series of measures to review the implementation of resolutions related to indigenous peoples adopted at the 4th World Conservation Congress (WCC4) in 2008 and to advance their implementation should there be a gap.
IntroductionForest Peoples Programme staff have recently returned from two weeks in the Central African Republic where we were working with the Bayaka Community Union and the World Wildlife Fund in the context of the EU-funded, Government of Central Africa Republic-implemented, and WWF-supported Dzanga Sangha project in which FPP is a partner. The objective of the EU project is to promote and improve local and especially indigenous livelihoods and sustainable development in the Dzanga Special Reserve in the context of increased protection for community rights, along with improved access to health and education services. The project is especially targeting the indigenous population of Bayaka forest huntergatherer communities, and the Sangha Sangha people, now a minority group traditionally based predominately along the rivers of the region. This EU project is one of a number of donor-funded projects implemented by the government, with technical and financial support from WWF, which together enable the Dzanga- Sangha Special Reserve to operate.