By Arsène Séverin
BRAZZAVILLE, Jun 16 (IPS) – Only two of the eleven countries that share the Congo Basin have validated their plans to participate in the forest conservation process known as REDD+.
Preparatory plans for REDD (the Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation of Forests, the plus refers to the extension of the programme to encompass certain tree plantations) have been completed by only the Republic of Congo and its neighbour, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The Central African Republic, which has forest cover of 3.8 million hectares, has been waiting since January for the valuation of its plan. “CAR has already begun its REDD process and we believe we could benefit quickly from the RETOMBEES of carbon credit,” said the country’s president, François Bozizé, at a Brazzaville summit earlier this month. The summit involved international donors and representatives drawn from the world’s three largest tropical forest basins, the Congo, the Amazon and the Mekong- Borneo basins.
Echoing concerns raised elsewhere, civil society in CAR has called for the land rights of forest communities like the Mbororos and the Anka to be taken into account, to ensure that they too can benefit from carbon finance.
François Naoueyama, the CAR’s minister for the environment and ecology is bullish on the prospects of the process. “The REDD+ process for us is an opportunity to receive necessary funding for the reduction of emissions from deforestation,”
The Republic of Congo, after having a plan rejected by civil society in July 2010, has now completed its Readiness Preparation Plan. “After this validation, we are waiting for funding for our national strategy,” Georges Claver Boudzanga, the country’s point person for REDD told IPS.
“After all the efforts we’ve put in, we don’t want REDD+ to be a white elephant here. We are awaiting funding so we can implement alternative activities and prevent the destruction and degradation of forests,” he said.
Loïc Braume, a forest expert from the World Bank, said Congo can expect 3.4 million dollars to support its REDD strategy as well as developing alternate livelihoods for forest communities battling poverty. This is also the amount he says was made available to the DRC’s REDD preparations.
“This money also allowed the setting up of some project pilots, such as the tree plantaions in Batéké,” said Braume.
The DRC, with 25 square kilometres of protected land, includes the largest share of the basin. DRC’s Readiness Preparation Plan has been approved at the level of the REDD+ Partnership, composed of wealthy countries and forested countries. Central Africa’s largest country is already the beneficiary of two REDD+ project pilots, including a plantation on the Batéké Plateau, not far from the capital, Kinshasa.
The DRC’s environment minister, José Endundu, said his country is expecting much more support. “It’s a drop in the ocean in light of the size of the country and the size of the population relying on the impact of REDD+ on the ground,” he told IPS.
Outside of Cameroon, which is presently preparing tools for REDD+, the other countries of the Congo Basin – Burundi, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Angola, Chad, Rwanda and Sao Tomé – are not even in an embryonic phase.
“It’s a real gap for us in Burundi. The authorities need to wake up so that we can benefit from funding like the other countries,” said Albert Mbonerane, president of the Green Belt Action association, based in the Burundian capital, Bujumbura.
Donors attending the Brazzaville summit confirm that resources exist to support countries starting the process. In the framework of the Congo Basin Forest Fund, managed by the African Development Bank, countries who want to begin the process will receive between 200,000 and 400,000 euros. “In three months, these funds will be available in the Congo Basin,” says Braume.
There are also funds which come from individual wealthy countries. Norway and the United Kingdom have already financed conservation and biodiversity projects, according to Guillaume Chomert, an expert from the REDD+ Partnership. “There are several countries which already benefit from this financing, including the DRC in the Congo Basin.”
But the countries which have already made progress did not attempt to conceal the difficulties they’ve faced in understanding the international carbon market. “There are subtleties, there’s no single method for the calculation of carbon, all of which makes it important that the Congo Basin countries unite and strengthen their cooperation,” said Minister Endundu from the DRC.
Launched in 2008 by the United Nations, the REDD+ process is considered an alternative response to deforestation and to the degradation of forests by forest communities who survive thanks to the forest. According to Juvenal Tais, coordinator of REDD+ at the United Nations, 71 countries – including 54 low-income countries – are involved in the process.