• Highlighting achievements in the CV4C project

    26 March 2021
    Comments are off for this post

    For four years, partners on the Citizen Voices for Change (CV4C) project have explored ways of making forest governance, and particularly independent forest monitoring stronger, more targeted, more effective. They have taken on powerful players and they have assisted government officials. They have integrated cross-cutting issues such as gender responsiveness into each aspect of their work. They have reached across national borders to help each other.

    Here are some of their stories.
    Click the titles to download the stories

    Standardised forest data: Cameroon – FODER

    SNOIE and ISO certification: An innovative approach ensures the reliability of information
    In a sector where reliable data are both crucial and difficult to obtain, FODER has taken the extraordinary step of obtaining ISO certification for its independent system to collect and manage forest information.

    Financial Health: Republic of the Congo − CAGDF

    Replenishing the State’s coffers
    The painstaking work of a tiny team of independent forest monitors truly pays off.

    Judicial Transparency: Central African Republic – CIEDD

    Pulled from oblivion: Toward transparent enforcement of the Central African Republic’s forest law framework
    By rehabilitating forest monitoring and judicial transparency, CIEDD has created the tools that CAR’s forest administration needs to succeed.

    Justice: Gabon − Brainforest

    Impunity is not what it used to be: 17 communities stand up to logging companies
    Gabonese NGO Brainforest has used the rigorous data collected through its independent forest monitoring activities to support community litigation – and to win.

    Peer-to-peer learning: Cameroon − FLAG

    A Regional Toolbox: FLAG develops critical instruments to empower independent monitors of forestry activity
    For the actors who inspect the timber sector in the Congo Basin sub-region, the Field Legality Advisory Group (FLAG) serves as a vital technical resource.

    Synergy of methods: Democratic Republic of Congo – OGF

    Casting a wide net to control illegal logging in the Democratic Republic of Congo
    OGF has helped to enhance the quality of independent forest monitoring and sparked the creation of RENOI-RDC, a network that relies on the synergy of different methods to tackle illegal logging.

    Gender responsiveness: Congo Basin

    Pulling together: Integrating gender in Congo Basin forest governance
    A transboundary project demonstrates how to benefit from greater gender responsiveness in policy-making and throughout the project cycle.

    Gender responsiveness case studies: Turbulence ahead
    Across the Congo Basin, civil society groups are using CV4C tools to craft and implement more inclusive policies and programmes

    Depuis quatre ans, les partenaires du projet Voix des citoyens pour le changement (CV4C) ont exploré les moyens de rendre la gouvernance forestière, et en particulier l’observation indépendante de l’exploitation forestière plus forte, plus ciblée, plus efficace. Ils ont tenu tête aux joueurs puissants et ils ont porté assistance aux représentants du gouvernement. Ils ont intégré des questions transversales telles que la sensibilité au genre dans tous les aspects de leur travail. Ils ont tendu la main au-delà des frontières nationales pour s’entraider.

    Voici quelques-unes de leurs histoires.
    Cliquez sur les titres pour télécharger les histoires.

    Données forestières normalisées : Cameroun – FODER

    SNOIE certifié ISO : L’innovation qui assure la fiabilité des informations
    Dans un secteur où les données pratiques sont à la fois cruciales et difficiles à obtenir, FODER a franchi une étape extraordinaire en obtenant la certification ISO du système indépendant de collecte et de gestion des informations forestières.

    Santé financière : République du Congo − CAGDF

    Renflouer les caisses de l’État
    Le travail de fourmi d’une petite équipe d’observateurs indépendants de l’exploitation forestière rapporte gros.

    Transparence judiciaire : République centrafricaine – CIEDD

    Sorti des oubliettes : vers un contrôle forestier transparent en République centrafricaine
    En réhabilitant le contrôle forestier et la transparence judiciaire, le CIEDD a créé les outils dont avait besoin l’administration forestière en RCA pour réussir.

    Justice : Gabon − Brainforest

    L’impunité n’est plus ce qu’elle était : 17 communautés tiennent tête aux sociétés forestières
    L’ONG gabonaise Brainforest s’est servie de données rigoureuses collectées en tant qu’Observateur indépendant pour appuyer l’action en justice des communautés locales – et pour gagner.

    Partage entre pairs : Cameroun − FLAG

    Boîte à outils régionale : le FLAG développe les instruments nécessaires pour accompagner les observateurs indépendants de l’activité forestière
    Pour les acteurs qui contrôlent le secteur bois dans la sous-région du Bassin du Congo, le Field Legality Advisory Group (FLAG) sert de balise d’alignement et de ressource technique.

    Synergie de méthodes : République Démocratique du Congo – OGF

    RENOI-RDC jette un large filet pour contrôler l’exploitation illégale de bois dans la République Démocratique du Congo
    OGF a contribué à améliorer la qualité de l’OI et a motivé la création de RENOI-RDC, un réseau qui s’appuie sur la synergie de différentes méthodes pour lutter contre l’exploitation illégale.

    Sensibilisation au genre : Bassin du Congo

    Tous ensemble : Intégrer la sensibilité au genre dans la gouvernance forestière du bassin du Congo
    Un projet transfrontalier montre comment bénéficier d’une inclusion approfondie du genre dans la formulation des politiques et tout au long du cycle de projet.

    Sensibilité au genre, cas d’étude : Zone de turbulence
    À travers le Bassin du Congo, les organisations de la société civile s’emparent des outils CV4C pour façonner et mettre en œuvre des politiques et programmes plus inclusives.

    Funder logos
    CV4C partner logos
    Continue Reading
  • CV4C webinar series: Achievements, reflections and food for thought

    3 March 2021
    Comments are off for this post

    This webinar series took place from place from 22-26 February 2021. This page features all of the video recordings and presentations from the event. Over five days we highlighted the successes and lessons from the Citizen Voice for Change (CV4C) project, which came to a close in December 2020.

    Over 200 people registered to learn how forests in the Congo basin are managed for conservation, nature, economic development and livelihoods.

    The daily webinars focused on what has been accomplished and learnt over four years of the implementation of the Citizen Voices for Change (CV4C) Congo Basin Forest Monitoring project, implemented by national civil society organisations in the Congo Basin working in partnership with regional and international partners. Every day a different theme was the focus of experience-sharing from key players involved in collecting information and evidence on logging and forest exploitation in Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon and the Republic of Congo. Five practitioner panels shared results and lessons from their engagement in strengthening the scope, quality and impact of independent forest monitoring in the Congo Basin.

    Download the programme: English | French

    Theme 1: A means to an end or an end in itself?: The challenges of Organisational Development

    Welcome and opening remarks

    • Overview of the CV4C project, Ella Haruna, CIDT
    • Opening Address, Prof Geoff Layer, Vice-Chancellor, University of Wolverhampton
    • Keynote statement, Thomas Pichet, FCDO FMGC Programme

    Theme 1: A means to an end or an end in itself? The challenges of Organisational Development

    Over the last two decades, Organisational Development (OD) has gradually emerged as the best springboard for ensuring the sustainability of non-state actors, including African civil society organisations. Despite the relative progress of organisational in the Congo Basin over the last ten years, it remains rather marginal, especially for environmental civil society organisations. At the same time, these organisations face many challenges that fundamentally affect their sustainability. To address these challenges, the CV4C project has devoted substantial effort on organisational development, driven by theory of change that more robust and resilient civil society organisations are also more effective in monitoring natural resource choices and policies. This webinar takes the lessons from the project as a starting point for further reflection on three essential components of organisational sustainability: financial sustainability, inclusion and human resource management.

    Teodyl Nkuintchua, Session Chair and Moderator

    Amelie Nkontchou (FODER, Cameroon)
    Sustainable financing of independent monitoring organisations in the Congo Basin: What can be done to make it work?
    View PowerPoint (English | French)

    Igerha Bampa (OGF, DRC), Laurence Wete Soh (FODER, Cameroon)
    Gender Mainstreaming in independent monitoring organisations in the Congo Basin: Experiences, challenges and lessons learned
    View PowerPoint (English | French)

    Olivier Meye (Brainforest, Gabon)
    Strategic Planning: from Plan to Action
    View PowerPoint (English | French)

    Guest speaker: Mireille Kayijamahe (Well Grounded, France)
    Organisational Development in the Congo Basin. Opportunities, challenges reflections from more than 10 years’ experience
    View PowerPoint (English | French)

    Theme 2: Independent Forest Monitoring: Lessons learned and perspectives on target audiences and data quality

    Since the inception of the CV4C in 2016, CSO members of the consortium have been striving to set up robust quality mechanisms to improve Independent Forest Monitoring (IFM) efficiency, efficacy and credibility, in order to enhance transparency and accountability in the fight against illegal logging. These efforts led to the creation and testing of a number of quality assurance instruments at various scales. For example, at organisational level through SNOIE in Cameroon by FODER, and development of internal Quality Management Systems (QMS) in DRC by OGF. A good example of quality on both a national and a regional level by FLAG, and at the international level – the Open Timber Portal by World Resources Institute and FLEGT WATCH by CIDT. These models respond to demands at the start of the project from users of IFM information and various stakeholders, who expressed the need for IFM as an approach to be more standardised, replicable, efficient and credible. From the onset, the project actively sought to address these concerns. The purpose of this webinar session is to share experiences on how the project has responded to these concerns by developing and implementing a number of instruments and tools. The session will focus on the emerging results achieved during the course of the project including the potential for scaling up and embedding the tools and instruments.

    Symphorien Azantsa, Session Chair and Moderator

    Serge Bondo Kayembe (OGF, DRC)
    Setting up the Quality Management System (QMS) and the Open Timber Portal (OTP): Opportunities for improving the quality of the mandated IFM
    View PowerPoint (English | French)

    Jean Cyrille Owada (FLAG, Cameroon)
    Ability of the innovative Verified Quality Management System (VQM) to strengthen the IM processes
    View PowerPoint (English | French)

    Angeline Kamden Modgo, Justin Kamga (FODER, Cameroon)
    Quality management of the IFM: The experience of SNOIE
    View PowerPoint (English | French)

    Achille Djeagou (WRI, DRC)
    The Quality and scope of IFM data for due diligence processes
    View PowerPoint (English | French)

    Theme 3: Strength in numbers: the power of networks and coalitions of interest

    The CV4C project believes that creating and maintaining strong links between IFM and advocacy nationally and internationally is critical in the face of inertia and a lack of response from officials to ensure that the evidence generated is used by decision- makers for law enforcement. Regional IFM platforms are well-placed to support both national advocacy networks and regional and international advocacy movements through strengthening voice, capacity-building and participation. This theme presents the various ways in which networks within and across the region have supported and acted as vehicles for project activity. This includes national platforms (e.g. RENOI, SNOIE network in Cameroon and the nascent SNOIE network in Congo-Brazzaville) and the role of the regional platform ‘Plateforme Africaine de l’Observation Indépendante’ (PAOI) – or the African independent monitoring platform. The panel will look at the role of networks in building civil society capacity and in advocacy/influencing.

    Stephany Kersten, Session Chair and Moderator

    Essylot LUBALA (OGF, DRC)
    National Network for IFM in the DRC: Challenges and opportunities
    View PowerPoint (English | French)

    Laurent Yangueta (CIEDD, CAR)
    Synergies between IFM and other State institutions: experience of the Consultation Platform for the fight against environmental crimes
    View PowerPoint (English | French)

    Serge Moukouri (FLAG, Cameroon)
    Challenges and opportunities facing IFM networks at the regional level: the case of the PAOI
    View PowerPoint (English | French)

    Theme 4: Closing the circle: Engagement with law enforcement agencies, the judiciary and the media

    Independent monitoring is an important instrument for improving forest governance in the Congo Basin for improving forest governance, transparency and the participation of non-state actors, in particular civil society organisations, rural populations and the media in the sustainable management of forests. IFM also has significant potential to contribute to law enforcement. In addition, the actions of IFM in the Congo Basin are increasingly aimed at strengthening synergies between the authorities in charge of law enforcement for an effective fight against illegal forestry. This theme aims to share the experiences of the CV4C project in the engagement of the media as well as the judicial authorities in the monitoring and repression of forest offences. It also draws lessons from the challenges of involving these authorities in identifying possible avenues for solutions.

    Virginie Vergnes, Session Chair and Moderator

    Fiston Mabonzi
    Independent monitoring and influence of the engagement of law enforcement agencies, the judiciary and the media: experiences of civil society in the DRC
    View PowerPoint (English | French)

    Flora Lamero, Rachel Ngo Nwaha, Lore Souhe
    Increasing the role of the media in natural resources governance: Where do we want to go and how? Experiences, lessons and perspectives
    View PowerPoint (English | French)

    Laurence Wete Soh, Horline Njiké
    Challenges of involving the judiciary in the fight against illegal logging in Cameroon: what are the possible solutions?
    View PowerPoint (English | French)

    Theme 5: ‘A tale of two illegalities’: Synergies between wildlife protection and forest governance

    The Congo Basin countries grappling with the challenges of forest illegality are equally ill-equipped to respond to the challenges of wildlife trafficking and organised crime. The international wildlife trade includes hundreds of millions of plant and animal specimens, estimated at billions of dollars annually. Grand scale illegality in the forest sector, poaching, ivory trade, illegal trade of bush meat and protected species, represent significant threats not only to forests, wildlife and ecosystems, but to regional development and security. Inadequate responses can be linked to a range of factors: inadequate legislation for wildlife offences; lack of recognition of wildlife crime as a priority crime leads to absence of strategic, tactical or operational focus; poor understanding of demand for and actors involved in the trade of illicit wildlife products; and lack of trained staff with the expertise and skills in specialist investigation techniques. This is exacerbated by porous borders and ineffective border controls; inadequate collaboration and information sharing between enforcement agencies; inadequate systems for intelligence gathering, analysis and use; lack of effective cooperation at local/ national/ regional/ international levels in information/intelligence exchange; grand and petty corruption in the agencies, and weak law enforcement management and monitoring capacity. This theme aims at exploring the synergies between wildlife crimes, and forestry crimes in the Congo Basin, from both a legal and a practical perspective. The theme will briefly present the project’s outputs: two Nexus studies from Cameroon and CAR, and a regional legal study.

    Willy Laywer, Session Chair and Moderator

    Samuel Nguiffo
    The judge and the forest in Central Africa: why illegal logging persist and intensifies in the Congo Basin countries?
    View PowerPoint (English | French)

    Ghislain Fomou
    Review of operational systems to combat illegal logging and wildlife exploitation in Cameroon
    View PowerPoint (English | French)

    Bienvenu Kemanda-Yogo
    Illegal exploitation of wildlife and timber in CAR: links, origins and purposes
    View PowerPoint (English | French)

    Closing remarks

    Dr Aurelian Mbzibain (CIDT, University of Wolverhampton)
    Closing address by representative of CV4C project

    Mathieu Auger Schwartzenberg (Task Team Leader, Agence Française de Développement)
    Closing address by representative of development partner

    Prof Philip Dearden (University of Wolverhampton)
    Closing address by representative of the University of Wolverhampton

    Continue Reading
  • Illegal logging soars during Covid-19 pandemic in Congo Basin

    27 January 2021
    Comments are off for this post

    ‘A study by the University of Wolverhampton’s Centre for International Development and Training (CIDT), has revealed that global climate goals and livelihoods of forest communities are at risk due to increased illegal logging in the forests of the Congo Basin. With the financial assistance of the FAO-EU FLEGT Programme, and the EU funded project RALFF led by Conservation Justice, CIDT carried out a survey of frontline communities impacted by the pandemic in the Congo Basin as part of its Citizen Voice for Change project (CV4C); which seeks to strengthen civil society independent forest monitoring and law enforcement in the region. The CV4C programme is co-funded by the EU and FCDO.

    “We were particularly interested in understanding the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on forest illegality and on the livelihoods of forest communities and indigenous peoples”, said Dr Aurelian Mbzibain, the lead author of the study and manager of the CV4C project. He added,

    “We surveyed 7000 forest dependent community members in three CV4C project intervention countries – Cameroon, Congo and Democratic Republic of Congo. The survey results clearly showed that forest dependent communities in the three countries are facing significant hardships, with the majority reporting a reduction or a total loss of income due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, Government lockdown measures made it difficult for these communities to maintain access to forest resources that they depend on for their livelihoods.”

    Habiba Mohamed, a researcher on the project, explained that women participating in the study reported the most significant losses in income, and difficulty managing household expenses and their roles as caregivers.

    “Findings show that the pandemic has hit women from forest dependent communities the hardest, economically, socially and psychologically”.

    Many women reported an increase in fear and anxiety as informal social support groups have been banned as part of social distancing. There were also some reports of increased domestic and gender-based violence.

    In addition to livelihoods impacts, the study highlights the pandemic’s influence on forest illegality. Most respondents across the three countries perceived a decline in the presence of forest control officials on the ground. Dr Mbzibain explained that consequently, “the majority of respondents had the impression that illegal logging was increasing. Not just because of the lack of government control, but also due to the perceived rise in artisanal logging by chainsaw loggers and exploitation beyond permit boundaries”. Whilst the world watches the pandemic, global climate goals are being compromised when it comes to fighting deforestation.

    In respect of the illegal wildlife trade, the study had an intriguing finding, as Dr Mbzibain explains: “Our initial hypothesis was that illegal logging was likely to go hand in hand with illegal wildlife trafficking, however most respondents believe that wildlife trafficking in their communities has, in fact, declined”. Respondents had different explanations for this perception: poachers’ fear of COVID-19 as a zoonotic disease; the decrease in demand for game meat from urban areas and the limited access to transportation due to lockdown.

    Finally, the report presents a set of recommendations for various key stakeholders, corresponding to the clear need for action to strengthen forest law enforcement, including a stronger role for civil society independent forest monitoring actions.

    Download a copy of the report.

    Continue Reading
  • The Future of Independent Forest Monitoring

    7 December 2020
    Comments are off for this post

    This article first published on Chatham House Forest Governance and Legality.


    Richard Nyirenda and Aurelian Mbzibain outline the current state of play of Independent Foresting Monitoring in Africa and set out recommendations for how it can continue to play a strong role in reforming the sector.

    Independent Forest Monitoring (IFM) has been part of global efforts to stop illegal logging, reduce deforestation and improve forest governance since the 1990s.

    There is a long history of IFM in Central and West Africa, but, while there have been significant improvements in forest governance, deforestation and forest degradation have nevertheless continued at an alarming rate.

    Yet, IFM in the Congo basin has progressed in leaps and bounds in recent years with a growing number of national and regional civil society organizations (CSOs) developing their expertise and strengthening their organizational capacities.

    IFM in the Congo basin has progressed in leaps and bounds, with a growing number of national and regional CSOs developing their expertise.

    With mainly funding from the European Union (EU), UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization-European Union Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FAO-EU FLEGT) Programme, these organizations have put in place financial management systems, gender policies, strategic plans and resource mobilization plans while also working to improve their technical knowledge and capabilities on forest monitoring and reporting.

    In Cameroon, for example, a strengthened IFM network has prompted increased government enforcement in the forest sector. Coordinated by the non-governmental organization, Forêts et Développement Rural (FODER), the Standardized External Independent Monitoring System network (SNOIE) has been implementing an ISO 9001:2015 Quality Management System (QMS) since 2015. This provides for continuous internal and external independent audits, ensuring the traceability of all monitoring activities, as well as providing opportunities for continuous improvement and learning.

    In the Republic of Congo, the mandated independent monitoring organization – Cercle d’Appui à la Gestion Durable des Forêts (CAGDF) – has so far been carrying the torch for IFM in the country although a few other organizations are involved in non-mandated activities too.

    But, because of its formal agreement with the government, its remit is limited: it has mainly focused on forestry operations and it is not able to follow up on the enforcement of cases. This has meant it has had limited impact on the forest sector as a whole.

    However, a new ‘SNOIE Congo’ system, involving a network of Congolese NGOs, based on the Cameroonian experience, has recently been established. These complementary initiatives will increase the capacity for IFM thereby enabling it to play a greater role in strengthening the country’s timber legality assurance system and monitoring progress with implementation of the country’s Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA).

    In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Observatoire de la Gouvernance Forestière (OGF) has been working as the mandated IFM since 2013 and has established a nationwide independent monitoring network called the Réseau National des Observateurs Indépendants sur la Gouvernance Forestière en RDC (RENOI-RDC). In addition, OGF has also been piloting independent monitoring for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) initiatives.

    In Gabon, Brainforest has been undertaking independent monitoring investigations since 2017. This work has included the provision of legal assistance to communities to enable them to claim their rightful benefits from large-scale forest exploitation.

    Brainforest also coordinates a new coalition of eight community-based organizations and a community alert network of over 40 indigenous people and local community (IPLC) representatives throughout the country. The government has also made clear its commitment to inclusive land use planning, forest monitoring and forest governance, for example, through a 2017 Letter of Intent with the Central Africa Forest Initiative (CAFI) which provides a strong basis for further strengthening this work.

    It is important to consider the key themes and trends relating to the future of IFM and how it could better help to reduce deforestation and degradation.

    In the Central African Republic (CAR), the Centre pour l’Information Environnementale et le Développement Durable (CIEDD) began investigating forest sector legality in 2016 and found that there was very little law enforcement taking place. In response to this situation, CIEDD has undertaken forest monitoring in the country and has been implementing a number of tools to support the administration in fulfilling its oversight role, for example, establishing a Register of Infractions, a forest control manual and a forest and environmental crime working group.

    In light of these developments, it is important to consider the key themes and trends relating to the future of IFM and how it could better help to reduce deforestation and degradation.

    National level strategy

    One of the key lessons to emerge from the work in the region is the value of a national level strategy for IFM. In many of the countries, IFM is currently undertaken by a plethora of organizations using a range of different approaches and methodologies often with overlapping roles, conflicts of interest and without effective modalities for coordination. This reduces the credibility of IFM in the eyes of key stakeholders such as the government, private sector and enforcement officials in timber importing countries.

    In the Republic of Congo, for example, a strategic framework is being developed by CIDT and the CSO platform to bring all the independent monitoring organizations and stakeholders together. This is critical in ensuring that IFM is relevant and aligns with national forest and land use processes which in turn serves to build its credibility among stakeholders. A national strategy for IFM also helps to create a clear vision for CSOs to work towards and can reinforce ownership at the national level.

    A national strategy for IFM helps to create a clear vision for CSOs to work towards and can reinforce ownership at the national level.

    From observation to investigation

    However, IFM needs to expand from its traditional focus on observing infringements and infractions related to timber harvesting to more investigative and data-based analysis.

    Illegal deforestation and degradation is being driven by a range of economic activities and these encompass many new forms of forest crime. Current IFM methodologies must therefore evolve in order to address these.

    New investigative approaches and capabilities are also needed that will allow independent monitoring to investigate complex value chains and to follow the finance that is fuelling forest crime. This shift should include strengthening linkages with national and international anti-corruption structures, the judiciary and other government agencies, such as all Ministries of Finance.

    Within FLEGT and REDD+, a focus on the legality grid and safeguards would further strengthen the relevance of IFM and align it more strongly with national processes.

    Independent monitoring organizations must also embrace the use of new tools and equipment. Already some tools to monitor changes in forest cover have been deployed by these organizations. For example, FLEGT Watch, which uses radar satellite data by independent monitoring organizations in the region to monitor illegal logging and deforestation.

    Similarly, Forest Link enables communities to engage in real-time monitoring of economic activities in their forests and has been deployed in five countries in the region.

    Independent monitoring organizations also need to incorporate the use of innovative technology such as drones in their efforts to collect real-time data and credible evidence particularly where access to areas of interest is restricted.

    Beyond forests to other sectors

    There is an urgent need to extend IFM beyond forestry and to harness its investigative and analytical potential in the monitoring of decisions and actions in other sectors including mining and agricultural commodities.

    In Cameroon, for example, FODER is focussing on the mining sector while, in Gabon, Brainforest has undertaken monitoring missions targeting the large-scale agricultural sector.

    Elsewhere there is increasing demand particularly from consumer country stakeholders for IFM to be extended to the monitoring of commodity supply chains and zero-deforestation commitments.

    IFM could also enlarge its focus to encompass CITES listed species, for example, helping to ensure that CITES permits and quotas are respected. Lessons from monitoring the illegal wildlife trade (IWT) from the Eco Activists for Governance and Law Enforcement (EAGLE) network, such as collaborative law enforcement actions with the judiciary, also warrant further exploration.

    There is an urgent need to extend IFM beyond forestry and to harness its investigative and analytical potential in the monitoring of decisions and actions in other sectors.

    Congo basin countries have included forest-related targets in their NDCs and IFM will be important in monitoring the implementation of these targets.

    Experience of undertaking independent monitoring in the forest sector points to the critical role it plays in supporting indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs) to claim their rights which constitutes important transferable learning particularly given the growing demand on land from agriculture and other sectors.

    Finally, Congo basin countries have included a range of forest-related targets in their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) and IFM will also be important in monitoring the implementation of these targets.

    Legislative reforms

    Legal recognition of IFM is needed in many countries so that it is more widely accepted – both by government and industry stakeholders. In the Republic of Congo, IFM is provided for in the 2020 forest code while the CAR and Liberia VPAs both provide for IFM.

    However, in many other countries civil society-led independent monitoring still lacks legal recognition and acceptance. Legal recognition is of critical importance to help ensure access to public information and documentation and to provide protection for whistle-blowers which are both essential to the implementation of IFM. The establishment of a legally-binding commitment from governments to respond to IFM reports, therefore, is needed.

    Improving quality

    The development and certification of SNOIE in Cameroon has improved the quality of IFM and quality management systems should be developed and implemented in other countries in order to improve its implementation and credibility across the region.

    These systems do not necessarily need to be certified but, as a minimum standard, each independent monitoring organization should put in place a robust internal system that involves a third-party assessment mechanism. This will help to ensure that independent monitoring organizations are clear about what their objectives are i.e. why they are involved in IFM, what the change is that they want to see and what their expectations are with regard to their stakeholders.

    National and regional coordination

    Strong links between IFM and advocacy nationally and internationally is critical in the face of inertia and a lack of response from officials to ensure that the evidence generated is used by decision-makers for law enforcement.

    Regional IFM platforms such as the Plateforme Africaine de l’Observation Indépendante (PAOI) – a pan-African independent monitoring platform which brings together IFM organizations – are well-placed to support both national advocacy networks and regional and international advocacy movements through strengthening voice, capacity-building and participation.

    Furthermore, by linking with international activist organizations and media platforms, there is the potential to reach consumers of African-produced forest and agricultural commodities in other parts of the world to raise awareness of the role of their consumption behaviours in driving illegal deforestation and degradation.

    Strong links between IFM and advocacy nationally and internationally is critical in the face of inertia.

    Sustainable funding

    Sustainable funding for IFM remains a major challenge. So far, support has been sporadic and project-based thereby hindering efforts to build and embed the capability that is needed to ensure the sustainability of IFM activities in Africa.

    Drawing on lessons learnt in Indonesia, future funding of IFM could be considered under a Congo basin independent monitoring fund to support monitoring activities and capacity-building.

    IFM, and the generation of reliable forestry information, is a public good that requires long term funding.

    The PAOI network, given its regional coverage and expertise, is well-placed to manage such a fund and to provide training. IFM, and the generation of reliable forestry information, is a public good that requires long term funding and, a fund of this kind, would further strengthen both the independence and the reach of IFM.

    Ultimately, IFM plays a crucial role in fighting corruption, increasing transparency and detecting forest crimes and illegal land use. However, as an approach, IFM must continue to innovate in order to remain focused on the key drivers of deforestation and degradation. This will require those CSOs undertaking IFM to build new capacities and capabilities while sustained and sustainable funding will also be essential to enable CSOs to continue to fulfil their watchdog role more effectively in a rapidly evolving context.

    Continue Reading
  • COVID response reaches indigenous forest peoples and vulnerable groups in Cameroon

    20 August 2020
    Comments are off for this post

    The Field Legality Advisory Group (FLAG), Centre for Environmental Education (CED) and members of the Cameroon Community Media Network launched an extensive community and media campaign against the COVID 19 pandemic in the South, East, Centre, North West and South West Regions of Cameroon. During the months of July and August 2020, field animators accompanied by medical practitioners reached out to local forest and indigenous people’s communities and marginalised and vulnerable groups. Field visits offered the opportunity to relay a message of hope and solidarity in the fight against the pandemic of the Coronavirus. During the awareness raising sessions, particular emphasis was placed on respect of measures of good hygiene and social distancing recommended by the government and by the WHO in order to reduce the risk of contamination. The teams also distributed sanitation kits including soap bars, handwash, hydro-alcoholic solutions, masks and providing training on soap making in some communities.

    Vulnerable groups and district health facilities in the Anglophone North and South West Regions faced with over four years of war, were particularly targeted, such as the nomadic Bororo’s and the handicapped. Over 2,000 households were reached through socially distanced sensitisation and millions of others through community radio, online and television messages. On going data collection on the impacts of COVID on these communities and their livelihoods will provide much needed insights on measures needed for a more resilient post Covid recovery plans.

    This action is conducted within the framework of the CV4C project led by the University of Wolverhampton’s Centre for International Development (CIDT) in the Congo Basin, funded by the European Union, the FAO-FLEGT programme and DFID.

    Continue Reading
  • Project support to the fight against COVID-19 in Kinshasa

    21 July 2020
    Comments are off for this post

    June 2020 saw the launch of an awareness raising campaign against the coronavirus in the forestry communities of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). An association of non-governmental organisations – which together form the National Network for Independent Observers, Le Réseau National des Observateurs Indépendants (RENOI) – led the campaign. A strong delegation visited the District of Maluku, in the eastern part of the Congolese capital, Kinshasa; in order to raise the awareness of the inhabitants of this municipality against COVID-19, which has raged in the urban-rural area since March.

    This visit was an occasion for the network of environmental civil society organisations to carry a message of hope and solidarity in the fight against the pandemic of the Coronavirus, which has shaken the entire world. RENOI also distributed sanitation kits including soap bars, handwash, hydro-alcoholic solutions, masks etc.

    “Many people don’t respect social distancing measures imposed by the authorities. We try to raise their awareness and to do community follow-up. I am happy that you have brought these kits to fight against this illness here to Maluku. We hope this act will continue”, declared the deputy mayor of Maluku, Apollinaire Kwedi Makuntima.

    During the awareness raising session, particular emphasis was placed on respect of measures of good hygiene and social distancing recommended by the government and by the WHO in order to reduce the risk of contamination of this pandemic.

    “Malukhu represents the gate of entry of all the logs coming out of the forestry provinces, especially the Bandundu, Equator and Oriental provinces. We wanted to raise the awareness of the populations living in this district and those who live in communities where the wood arrives. If they understand the importance of protecting themselves, they will protect others and hence stop the spread of this sickness”, stated Essylot Lubala, the coordinator of the OGF organisation (Observatoire de la Gouvernance Forestière).

    This action is conducted within the framework of the CV4C project led by the University of Wolverhampton’s Centre for International Development (CIDT) in the Congo Basin, funded by the European Union, the FAO-FLEGT programme and DFID.

    Alfred NTUMBA, EnviroNews

    Translated by Habiba Mohamed, CIDT


    Continue Reading
  • CIDT secures £174,000 to raise awareness around COVID19 with indigenous communities in the Congo Basin

    26 May 2020
    Comments are off for this post

    CIDT are leading a partnership to distribute information and resources to indigenous communities in three countries in the Congo Basin, via existing project networks.

    There is a great threat from the COVID19 pandemic to the region, particularly for indigenous communities. Indigenous communities are the best guardians of the world’s forests and biodiversity. With the safety of urban areas being prioritised, the disruption of services in rural areas is a real risk when coupled with lack of accessible information on the disease and risks of isolation, discrimination and a slide into poverty. It is essential to raise awareness among this category of the population so that they are aware of the seriousness of the pandemic and respect the measures advocated by the country’s political and health authorities in order to protect themselves from spreading to areas not yet affected.

    Following a COVID 19 appeal to key donors, the EU and DFID have agreed for CIDT to redirect over £160,000 of contingency funding and under-spend allocated in the Citizen Voices for Change (CV4C) project towards a COVID 19 response. The team has successfully mobilised an additional £14,000 of new funding from the FAO EU FLEGT Programme.

    Dr Aurelian Mbzibain, Associate Professor (International Development) and Programme Manager for the CV4C led the appeal and commented:

    “This is really positive news and this money will go a long way in helping raise awareness and fighting COVID 19 with the communities we are working with across the Congo Basin”.

    The funds will be used by CV4C project partners to:

    • raise awareness about the virus and measures to prevent/combat the disease
    • identify the impacts of the virus on indigenous communities and women
    • assess and document the impacts on forest and wildlife activities (especially illegality)
    • propose actions and mechanisms to address or mitigate impacts on communities

    Networks established in the CV4C project include community organisations that undertake forest monitoring throughout the major forest areas. Our project will leverage these networks to:

    • reach 5000+ people to deliver awareness-raising campaigns
    • distribute 6000 sanitary kits distributed
    • engage 30 media outlets to disseminate information and messages on national mainstream and social media
    • provide regular updates on perceived COVID impacts to key decision makers

    Through keeping information and resources flowing between forest communities and governments, donors and media, this partnership will contribute towards keeping people safe and ensuring that effective planning can begin for when the COVID19 threat is more under control.

    The forests in the Congo Basin represent the second largest on the planet and are vital for global climate regulation and Africa’s biodiversity. They are home to over 40 million people and support the livelihoods of 75 million people from 150 ethnic groups. There is a growing body of evidence linking deforestation, destruction of natural habitats and biodiversity loss, and zoonoses such as COVID-19. In addition to these challenges, the forest sector has to combat illegal logging, corruption and poor forest and land governance.


    Photo taken by project partner FLAG Cameroon once the outreach work had begun.

    Continue Reading
  • Independent review of 4-year CIDT project reveals significant progress

    20 May 2020
    Comments are off for this post
    CED mission

    At the end of 2019 the Citizen Voices for Change (CV4C) – led by CIDT and funded by the EU and DFID – was assessed by external independent reviewers from the Canadian firm Fokabs. The Mid-Term Review team found that significant progress has been made towards the objective of the project to build strong and effective Non-State Actors capable of monitoring forest governance and forest land-use change in five Congo Basin countries.

    Click here to download the report.

    The review found that a wide series of results had been realised by the project:

    • Some governments (for instance Cameroon) are better responding to the independent forest monitoring reports generated by NSAs.
    • Significant improvements have been achieved in the quality of evidence generated by the project especially independent forest monitoring (IFM) reports.
    • Support to indigenous peoples and local communities and women to access their rights to benefits from forest exploitation
    • Publication of reports and briefs on the Open Timber Portal and development of FLEGT Watch have strengthened monitoring capability of NSAs
    • At policy level, CV4C has been instrumental in informing national forest-related processes such as FLEGT and REDD+ in the project countries.

    The review reported that CV4C has delivered a successful capacity strengthening programme for non-state and government actors including:

    • Improving the organisational and institutional capacities of project partners through the elaboration of strategic documents (policies, plans and strategies).
    • Organising regional exchanges to promote learning between countries in order to boost the performance of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and other actors in tracking and combatting illegalities in the forest sector.
    • Supporting ISO certification of the Standardized External Independent Monitoring System (SNOIE) in Cameroon and technical assistance on quality management systems in other project countries.
    • Developing and piloting the satellite-based FLEGT WATCH tool allowing for improved efficiency and impact on the ground.
    • Driving significant focus on gender and mainstreaming through the project
    • Establishing a regional community of practice on IFM that shares best practices and fosters synergies culminating in the establishment of a Pan African Network of IFM organisations (PA-OI) the Congo Basin.

    The evaluators, Prof Kalame Fobissie and Kevin Enongene, found that:

    “CV4C has made considerable progress regarding the attainment of the four expected results set by the project and the majority of respondents rated the progress achieved towards the attainment of the project results as high to very high.”
    “The project has been efficient towards the use of financial and human resources for the implementation of project activities.”
    “Overall, the project is on track towards attaining its overall and specific objective by end date.”

    The review report presented lessons relating to: IFM approaches and quality management, gender mainstreaming, capacity building and project implementation. The review was conducted through the review and synthesis of project reports, documents and online information. In addition, primary data was collected using interviews and focus group discussions (FGDs) with partners and other relevant project stakeholders.

    Continue Reading
  • Advances in Independent Forest Monitoring are bringing change to the forests of the Congo Basin

    6 April 2020
    Comments are off for this post
    IFM in CAR

    The University of Wolverhampton’s Centre for International Development and Training (CIDT) has been at the forefront of promoting civil society led independent monitoring of forests, governance and land-use change processes in the Congo Basin within its Citizen Voices for Change Programme since 2017.

    This information leaflet recalls several stories of real, meaningful and lasting change, realised through years of collaboration, hard work and innovation.

    These efforts are the work of several civil society organisations (Brainforest in Gabon, CAGDF in Congo, CIEDD in CAR, CED and FODER in Cameroon, OGF in DRC and FLAG at regional level) that are motivated to implement the behaviour and systems required to ensure that Independent Forest Monitoring (IM) becomes an effective mechanism for improved forest management and governance.

    These impact stories are the results of coordinated efforts within and between countries, where lessons are shared, support is at hand, and goals are aligned. There is a risk that the current global Coronavirus epidemic will further weaken forest governance and law enforcement systems in these countries and hence the need for national civil society organisations to remain vigilant. International development and donor agencies must also ensure that monitoring and law enforcement resources are available during and after the pandemic to ensure that forest illegalities remain under check and that organised crime groups and other unscrupulous groups are held to account.

    Continue Reading
  • Project partners from five countries convene for annual planning in Gabon

    27 February 2020
    Comments are off for this post
    CV4C annual partner workshops

    The regional planning workshop for the Citizen Voices for Change project took place in Libreville, Gabon from 14-16 January 2020, bringing together partner project managers from Gabon, Cameroon, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Central African Republic (CAR).

    Project partners from across the sub-region presented the challenges of forest governance in their respective countries, the results of project actions and how they have contributed to creating change in the field of independent forest monitoring (IM) in their countries. Further discussions took place regarding project results and the identification of priorities for the remainder of the project, which has now entered its final year.

    CV4C annual partner workshops

    The focus of day two centred on questions of quality when it comes to independent forest monitoring and how to improve it. Discussions were guided by technical partners FLAG, CIDT, WRI and FODER. This discussion culminated in a detailed and in-depth exchange between partners regarding the different national priorities in forest governance and how to better address the challenges of this sector in 2020.

    The final day of the workshop addressed project visibility and the promotion and dissemination of successes and lessons learnt. A dedicated technical session facilitated by Conservation Justice discussed how to create synergies between Independent Forest Monitoring and Independent Observation of Wildlife in the region, through the replication of the model used on their ALEFI project around illegal logging.

    CV4C annual partner workshops

    Continue Reading