Trust Fund for Congo Basin Forest in the Pipeline
Douala, Cameroon – Oct 2007
The Congo Basin Forest is the world’s second largest tropical rain forest. It encompasses an area of approximately 1.8 million square kilometres within six countries; Cameroon, Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.
It can be divided into six distinct ecological regions, so called eco-regions. The biodiversity of the forest is of global significance because of both the sheer number of species found in the region, known as species richness and because of the number of plant and animal species that exist nowhere else on the planet, known as endemism.
The forest will soon receive special attention with the mobilisation of funds earmarked for its protection. The creation of a Trust Fund to enhance its sustainable management has been announced by Professor Wangari Maathai, the 2004 ‘Nobel prize’ winner who was visiting Cameroon recently to prepare for a meeting of the permanent committee of the African Union Economic and Social Council, ECOSOCC.
Professor Maathai said British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown has disbursed some 50 million pounds to support the management of the forest. She expressed the wish to see other organisations including the African Union contribute generously to the fund. She also said she has been discussing ways and means of helping governments of the Conference of Central African Forest Ministers (COMIFAC) progress in the implementation of a convergence plan.
In 1999 Central African sub-region Heads of State met for the first time in Yaoundé to discuss conservation and sustainable management of the forestry ecosystem, and several decisions were taken and accords were signed to ensure the effective protection of the Basin.
The mobilisation of funds to guarantee the success of policies in this sector therefore remains sine qua non. One thing is certain; it is not the lack of adequate laws which remain an obstacle but rather the lack of sufficient means to compensate (A) stakeholders in the logging industry and (B) the locals who have relied on the forest as a source of their livelihood.
Despite efforts to protect the forest there are many challenges associated with its management and it continues to be exploited at an alarming rate. The effectiveness of action to combat exploitation of the forest’s resources remains questionable. Sustainable management of the forest’s ecosystem requires deploying parallel measures to enable policy makers better translate words into action.
Cameroon is in its own small way contributing to the protection of the forest by intervening against unauthorised exploitation, reforesting exploited areas and also planting trees in urban and sub urban areas. The Cameroonian minister of forestry and wildlife ‘Elvis Ngolle Ngolle’ told Wangari Mathaai that his government in partnership with civil society, NGOs and councils intends to plant 15,000 trees every year, an initiative of which she strongly approved.