Forest Resources: A Potential Source of Stabilization in the DRC

By Bernardin SEBAHIRE


ISDR/ Bukavu

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been called many things. Sometimes a geological scandal, sometimes a continental country, sometimes a solution country when it comes to issues related to forest resources. In spite of all these assets, the local communities living in this earthly paradise live in a poverty without a name: inaccessible roads, hospitals in an advanced state of dilapidation, schools in ruins,…

Currently, more than 1.5 billion people living in extreme poverty derive their livelihoods directly from forest resources, especially from the exploitation of non-timber forest products. For local populations, the forest is a shelter and a source of fuel and energy, food and medicine. The destruction of the forest can therefore only aggravate their poverty.

For the EU, “the DRC is a jewel with its immense forest resources”.

“The DRC is our biggest envelope for the preservation of biodiversity in Africa,” says Jean-Marc Châtaigner, European Union ambassador in Kinshasa. “The DRC is a solution country: it is a huge country that has an immense forest resource: it is a jewel that is a factor of development for the populations and for the preservation of the planet,” he says.

The Congo Basin is home to the world’s second largest tropical forest after the Amazon: it covers an area of 165 million hectares, two-thirds of which is in the DRC. Its billions of trees, essential for human survival, are the subject of extensive scientific research.

In Yangambi, 25m above the canopy, stands the flux tower, a unique structure in the Congo basin. This site has once again become a place of experimentation where we are trying to fight against global warming and restore biodiversity.

This 55-meter high flow tower joined the 1400 flow towers in the world a year ago. There are 12 of them in Africa. The CongoFlux project was designed by the University of Ghent in Belgium and built in Yangambi, in the middle of the forest. One device measures wind direction and speed, another measures gas concentrations. By combining these data, scientists quantify the flows. The tower has been operational since October 2020.

“This structure allows us to quantify the exchange of greenhouse gases between the atmosphere and the forest,” explains Thomas Sibret, CongoFlux project manager. “We can thus continuously calculate the amount of carbon emitted and sequestered by the Congo Basin forest,” he adds.

First lung of the planet

The forests of the Congo Basin store more CO2 per hectare per year than the Amazon, as Michel Baudouin, Director of ERAIFT (Regional School of Integrated Management of Tropical Forests and Lands/UNESCO) and Rector of the Yangambi Institute of Agricultural Sciences, reminds us.

“This forest, contrary to what many people say, is not the second lung of the planet, but the first lung of the planet: it has the second largest surface area, but it has the largest carbon fixation capacity,” says Michel Baudouin. “For many biological and historical reasons, more carbon is fixed today in the Congo Basin than in the Amazon or Indonesia,” he says.

“Knowing what our forest is absorbing, we say to ourselves why not protect this forest that is helping us avoid the serious scourge of climate change,” adds Fabrice Kimbesa, CongoFlux technician.

Forest governance

Prime Minister Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde pledged on Monday, September 5, in Yangambi, Isangi territory (Tshopo), to promote a green and resilient low-carbon economy. He made this commitment at the opening of the works organized as a prelude to the 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (Cop 27).

The Head of Government launched, on the same occasion, the International and Scientific Forum on the Forests of the Congo Basin and other tropical basins. 

“Climate change is now the phenomenon at the center of economic, political and environmental issues because of which States are called to take concrete actions to avoid the global climate cataclysm. Faced with the triple planetary crisis, climate change, loss of biodiversity and pollution, the DRC is now presented as a solution country,” explained Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde. 

On the occasion, he unveiled the vision of the DRC which is summarized in the promotion of the green economy, resilient low carbon. For the Prime Minister, the government also proposes to manage rationally and sustainably its important natural resources, in order to guarantee the ecological balance and the social, economic, cultural and environmental well-being of its population.

Rational management of natural resources

The international and scientific forum on the forests of the Congo Basin and other tropical basins, organized by the DRC through the Vice-primacy of Environment and Sustainable Development, brings together from September 5 to 7 in Yangambi, many international and national scientists. 

The latter will have to reflect on how to rationally and sustainably manage the important natural resources that the Democratic Republic of Congo has as a “Solution Country” in the fight against climate change, and to promote a green economy, resilient and low carbon emission, recalls the Prime Minister. 

For the Head of Government, it is crucial to bring together scientists specializing in the issues of forests, water resources, climate change, climate finance and related disciplines.

According to him, the scientists’ reflections will not be limited only to the Congo Basin, but will also extend to other tropical basins of the planet, in particular the Amazon and Indonesian basins, which provide the same ecosystem services to mankind, often facing similar problems of protection and preservation.

The choice of Yangambi, to host this work, is justified by the presence, in this locality of the territory of Isangi, of an important National Institute for Agricultural Research (INERA), reservoir of an important biodiversity recognized worldwide, recalls the Prime Minister’s Office. The locality of Yangambi is located on the right bank of the Congo River, 100 kilometers west of the city of Kisangani.

 The 235,000 hectares of forest around Yangambi were declared a Biosphere Reserve in 1976, within the framework of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Program. The Yangambi Biosphere Reserve is one of the main protected areas threatened by anthropization in the region.

Cop 27 will bring together, from November 7 to 18 in Sharm el-Sheikh (Egypt), the signatory countries of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.