The Democratic Republic of Congo recently signed a landmark $200m deal with donors to help the African nation protect the world’s second-largest rainforest, implement sustainable development policies and reduce carbon emissions.
If all goes well over the next four years in what is the largest such integrated environmental-development initiative in Africa, Kinshasa can eventually expect to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in credits from its reduced emissions. However, donors admit success cannot be taken for granted in one of the region’s most unstable countries.
The DRC has 155m hectares of forest, an area slightly bigger than the UK, Ireland, France and Spain combined. By global standards, its deforestation rate is considered relatively low but the government admits it is starting to accelerate because of shifting cultivation, a reliance on wood for fuel, and illegal logging.
The letter of intent signed is the first under the Central African Forest Initiative, which was launched last year. The donors are Norway, France, the UK, Germany, and the European Union while the African nations in the scheme also include the Central African Republic, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and the Republic of Congo. Oslo is providing $190m of the financing and the other partners the rest.
The DRC will use the funding to reduce slash-and-burn farming among the 60% of the 70m population that live in forests, develop new agriculture practices, introduce more efficient and less wood-dependent energy generation methods, and educate communities about protecting the environment. There will be regular monitoring by international agencies and a full review at the end of 2018, at which point the funding could be cancelled if there is deemed inadequate progress.
Priya Gajraj, the DRC country director of the UN Development Programme, said the holistic nature of the agreement “will really help the country generate transformational change in key economic sectors”. She added: “It not only addresses deforestation but wider sustainable development and land use management.”