Partners seek to make conservation pay to protect Congo Basin Forest
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05 كانون2/يناير 2017 Author :   Elias Ntungwe Ngalame
Canopy of a tropical rain forest

PAMACC News - Partners of the Congo Basin Forest, which holds the second-largest bank of rainforest on the planet after the Amazon in South America are seeking to make conservation activities generate income that will help protect forests, fight against climate change and poverty in the region amidst increasing threats.

Experts say the use of conservation to create environment friendly investments that generate profit and ensure economic sustainability will help keep extractive industries and large scale palm oil plantations that threatens the Congo Basin Forest at bay.

“If we want to protect the Congo Basin Forest, we must make conservation pay and generate the necessary income to put food on the table for our survival and for the future of our children,” says Praven Moman,founder and CEO  of Volcanoes Safari, Rwanda.

He said investing in tourism with conservation travel products, safari and ecotourism including hospiltality, accommodation, guiding and logistics activities around the Congo Basin Forest will keep the forest resources and ecosystem intact, fight against climate change while at the same time generating income through employment of the local forest communities.

He cited the case of Gorilla Park  of Virungas in Kahuzi Biega in DRC, Wester Forest Park and Gorrilas in Gabon, the Republic of Congo, Central Africa and Cameroon, the Forest elephants in Cameroon and the Ba’ka pygmies in the forest communities of Cameroon as concrete examples of tourist attractions beckoning for investors to sustain the economy of the Congo Basin region and protect the forest from destruction.

According to the Congo Basin Forest Partnership, CBFP, only about 13 percent of the about 300 million hectares of the forest is protected leaving large spans of the rich forest vulnerable and threatened by invading agro-industries and mining investors.

The partners also emphasized on the need to invest in the education of forest communities on the importance of conservation.

The local forest communities are key drivers to protection of natural resources and thus the need to be empowered  in readiness to conservation challenges says Manfred Epanda, AWF Coordinator in Cameroon.

The forest expert say investment in educating the local communities on the importance of conservation was also key to drive the sustainable forest management agenda.

In a paper presented at a side event at the Congo Basin Forest Partnership meeting in Kigali November 22, 2016, Epanda emphasised on the need to adequately sensitize and educate the local population on the importance of conservation to their wellbeing.

“Studies by the AWF has shown the direct relationship between the level of education of the population and attitudes towards conservation and the fight against climate change,” he said.

One of the major outcome of the Kigali Congo Basin Forest Partnership was the reinforcement of public/private partnerships to attract private investors into the conservation projects in the region.

 Government officials from Congo Basin countries who attended the high-level pannel and the CBFP council meeting admitted that working with the private sector to promote investments in the tourism sector with National Parks and wildlife conservation areas will give a big push to conservation efforts both at national and regional levels.

"Promoting tourism in the forest sector  will permit for added value in economic driven investments, social and cultural boost, all essential to the welbeing of the local and indigenous populations," said Joseph Roland Matta former secretary of state in charge of forestry in Cameroon and now senator who attended the meeting.

Statistics from the Central African Forest Commission,COMIFAC says over 60 million people living inside and within the vicinity of the forest rely on its resources for subsistence.

Joseph Roland Matta pointed out that expanding Cameroon's tourism to the forestry sector is contained in the policy programmes defined by countries of the CEMAC zones of 2025 for DRC and 2035 for Cameroon.

"The example of successful tourism projects in some national parks presented at the meeting will serve as case study from which other countries will draw inspiration," he said.

According to the studies, the involvement of the local people in the conservation process will enhance protection of the ecosytem by some 11.40 percent, pointing out much resources including forest, wildlife and money can be saved by improving the attitude and knowledge of local people towards conservation.

Experts agree there is a direct relationship between the natural resource potential of a region and the socio-economic wellbeing of the population who rely on these resources for cash and subsistence income.

The local populations directly rely on their natural resources for survival, but the exploitation of these resources must be done sustainably says Richard Eba’a Atyi of CIFOR.


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