Webinar series on COVID-19 and the Forest Sector – Experience from Forest Communities of COVID-19 ImpactsContinue Reading
On 28 October 2020, the FAO-EU Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade Programme hosted the webinar “Experience from Forest Communities of COVID-19 Impacts”. This virtual event was part of FAO’s Forestry Division’s webinar series on COVID-19 and the forest sector.
The event presented the results of two Programme-supported field surveys carried out by the University of Wolverhampton’s Center for International Development and Training (CIDT) and by RECOFTC. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the forefront a number of pressing global challenges. Health systems have been stretched thin and lockdown measures have taken a heavy social and economic toll, the devastating impacts of which are being felt by all – from urban residents of densely populated megacities to indigenous peoples living deep in the heart of forests.
Recognizing that forest-based communities play a critical role as custodians of forest resources, the FAO-EU FLEGT Programme partnered with RECOFTC and CIDT to survey the immediate impacts of the pandemic on forest-based communities in several countries in Asia and Africa, including perceptions of law enforcement, as critical inputs towards designing suitable recovery programmes. Overall, the studies included both those communities that have community-designated forests and structures in place such as forest committees, and those that do not.
The webinar presented the findings of these surveys and identified concrete actions to support forest-based communities, as a central part of forest-sector recovery efforts. Aurelian Mbzibain (CIDT) stated that Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLCs) surveyed in the Congo Basin – Cameroon, the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo – also suffered negative impacts of COVID-19, revealing a higher proportion of women impacted, who reported both economic losses but also an increase in domestic violence. Dr Mbzibain remarked that respondents perceived a lower presence of government forest control activities on the ground and higher levels of illegal logging, and made several recommendations, such as the need to strengthen independent forest monitoring by civil society and the ensuing need to improve access to digital technologies. Furthermore, Dr Mbzibain encouraged strengthening participatory processes that include IPLCs and women in post recovery investment planning, ensuring that legality, sustainability and inclusive development are at the forefront of the post-recovery agenda. As a last recommendation Dr Mbzibain highlighted the need for strong monitoring of government and private sector commitments to the fight against illegal logging, deforestation and forest degradation.
David Ganz (RECOFTC) highlighted the importance of forests as safety nets for local communities in times of crisis and the role of community forestry in protecting forests against illegalities. Respondents reported that lockdown had reduced food security and livelihood options of forest communities surveyed. Like CIDT, RECOFTC also found that women have been more negatively affected by the crisis than men. Dr Ganz highlighted that where community forestry committees were present and functioning, these were able to support members to better cope with the social and economic impacts of the pandemic and to mitigate the threat of forest crime. He identified seven key actions that need to be taken to build the resilience of forest communities, including: (i) supporting and strengthening community forestry credit mechanisms; (ii) strengthen capacity of governments and community forestry committees for disaster preparedness and response; (iii) enable and equip community forestry committees to mobilize, use and disburse funds efficiently: (iv) mainstream gender equality in policies and investments; (v) strengthen capacity of community forest groups to tackle forest crimes; (vi) improve digital access to improve market access and enable disaster preparedness and response as well as market access; ( vii) focus on investment on approaches that improve both livelihoods and address climate change, such as landscape restoration and management.
Similar findings to those of these two studies were reported by Sophie Grouwels (FAO Forest and Farm Facility) with regard to pandemic impacts on Forest and Farm Producer Organizations (FFPOs), including decreased incomes, food insecurity, displacement and loss of lives. Despite these challenges, the vital role of FFPOs in responding to the COVID-19 crisis – as suppliers and buyers of a broad basket of products, as providers of a range of social protections services (health, education and child care), and as facilitators of the flow of information between local, regional and national levels – was underlined.
The findings presented in the webinar confirmed, once more, that communities’ role in oversight and sustainable management of forest resources is indisputable, and that stronger and better organized community structures, including FFPOs and forest monitor networks, have the capacity to build resilience for the future – resilience of both communities and of the forests themselves to withstand economic and environmental pressure. In this context, FAO remains committed to supporting COVID-19 recovery efforts which maintain long term efforts for legal and equitable forest sector with community interests and role at the centre.
The webinar also included an active Q&A session, summarized in the document attached.
The FAO-EU FLEGT Programme of the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations is a global demand-driven initiative that provides technical support and resources for activities that further the goals of the EU’s FLEGT Action Plan. The Programme is funded by the European Union, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office of the United Kingdom
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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.
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.
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 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.
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For more than three-quarters of a century, the American Forest Foundation (AFF) has helped family forest owners care for their land. Following this long history as a grant-making industry association the American Forest Foundation is currently in transition towards ways of working which are financially sustainable and achieve impact at scale. CIDT supported with a results-based planning approach leading to a simple, coherent and consistent analytical framework to underpin the planning of each work-stream.
Pre-Covid19, such support may have been provided via a facilitated face-to-face workshop. However, in this new era of virtual engagement, thirty hours of planning workshops were facilitated online with the use of virtual flipcharts, polling and breakout rooms.
CIDT’s Ella Haruna supported this series of facilitated collaborative workshops to support two AFF teams to develop their value proposition. The Biodiversity team is working to increase the number of landowners across the South actively and sustainably managing their forests, and the Western team is working to reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfire in the West.
The US South’s forests rank at the top of the world in terms of biodiversity and number of wildlife species. More than 500 wildlife species are at-risk due to years of conversion of forests to non-forest uses, fragmented waterways, and an influx of invasive species.
In the West, frequent droughts and over grown forests are causing catastrophic wildfires, which strain forested watersheds and the water supply that comes from them. Protecting clean water is an urgent and pressing issue, with healthy forests acting as a natural water filter and storage system.
By the end of the facilitated suite of workshops, the Biodiveristy and Western teams of AFF had:
- been introduced to a suite of simple tools for results-oriented product design
- identified the stakeholders in product design and the core focal problem to be addressed
- analysed the root causes and effects of the focal problem and reframed these as solutions
- used a range of objective criteria to scope out and prioritise strategic options
- scoped out the ‘results chain’ and identified the risks to success and how these can be mitigated
- identify success criteria (performance indicators) and independent sources of evidence (means of verification)
Faced with growing threats to US forests, it is more important than ever that family woodland owners actively steward their land and protect our nation’s forest heritage. In collaboration with partners, AFF employs a number of strategies, programs and tools that help overcome the barriers to forest stewardship and engage more forest owners in conservation impact on the ground.
Join our webinar on sustaining momentum for FLEGT as part of a green recovery from the COVID-19 pandemicContinue Reading
- Date: Wednesday 14 October 2020, 14h-15h30 (Brussels time)
- Registration: Click here to register
Human society is enduring one of the greatest global health crises of the past century: COVID-19. As the urgency of tackling the pandemic took centre stage, policy issues such as the implementation of the Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan and the Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) moved into the background.
Meanwhile, logging, trade exports, manufacturing, and construction are continuing. Governments in Europe and VPA countries face a tough choice to balance the health and welfare of the population with meeting their governance and political commitments.
About this event
On 14 October 2020, Member of the European Parliament Karin Karlsbro – in collaboration with Fern, the Centre for International Development and Training, the Environmental Investigation Agency and the World Resources Institute, will host a webinar on the importance of sustaining momentum for FLEGT as part of a green recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speakers from EU institutions, timber producing countries, the private sector and civil society will debate how to mitigate negative impacts the pandemic may have on governance and forest peoples’ rights, and how FLEGT can play a positive role in recovery plans.
Host: Ms. Karin Karlsbro, Member of the European Parliament (Renew Europe Group), Chair of the “Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade” Monitoring Group, Fern, EIA, CIDT and WRI
Moderation: European Forest Institute and Fern
Language: The webinar will be in English. Simultaneous interpretation in French will be available.
Panelists will include:
- Civil society/government representative from Indonesia – The dangers of deregulation and how to tighten checks (tbc)
- Obed Owusu-Addai – Co-founder and Managing Campaigner, EcoCare Ghana – Lessons learned from the VPA process during COVID-19
- Patrice Moussy, Head of Sector, Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development, Unit Environment, Natural Resources, Water, European Commission – Harnessing FLEGT for a green recovery
- Francisco Javier Escalante, Vice-Minister of Forest Development of the Forest Conservation Institute (ICF) of the Government of Honduras
- Benoît Jobbé-Duval, Executive Director, Association Technique Internationale des Bois Tropicaux (ATIBT)
– Perspective from the private sector on mitigating impacts and upholding the law
- Horline Njike, Secretary General, Field Legality Advisory Group and Essylot Lubala, Coordinator, Observatoire de la Gouvernance Forestière
– Lessons learned from independent forest monitoring in times of crisis
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Illegal wildlife trade (IWT) involves the illegal capture, collection, hunting, poaching, trade and smuggling of endangered, protected wildlife, derivatives and or its products. It is estimated that around 75% of newly emerging infectious diseases are zoonoses derived partly from illegally harvested and traded species (Wang et al., 2020). The 2002-2003, severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS emerged from wet wildlife markets in China and subsequently spread worldwide caused by a zoonotic coronavirus. The Ebola epidemic in West Africa and the global COVID 19 pandemic are stark reminders of the global catastrophic impacts of trade in wildlife species.
For the past ten years, the University of Wolverhampton’s Centre for International Development and Training (CIDT) has been working in partnership with civil society organisations in the Congo Basin to strengthen forest monitoring and law enforcement and to address some of the underlying governance drivers which perpetuate these crimes. In 2018, CIDT and partners began to explore the synergies with wildlife monitoring and law enforcement. As part of this effort, CIDT conducted a review of the literature on illegal wildlife trade (IWT), looking particularly at local, regional and global responses and tools to combat IWT and related crimes.
The review suggests that, given the failure of traditional regulatory and law enforcement options, complementary solutions need to be strengthened. These include a focus on alternative livelihoods; working with indigenous communities and civil society organisations on wildlife monitoring, investigations, and prosecution; and collaborative law enforcement with government agencies. The paper recommends significant targeted funding to fight corruption, improve transparency and strengthen government law enforcement capabilities as part of a post-COVID-19 recovery package.
Reference: Wang, H., Shao, J., Luo X, Chuai, Z., Xu, S., Geng, M and Gao, Z (2020) Wildlife consumption ban is insufficient, Science, 367 (6485) 1435, DOI: 10.1126/science.abb6463
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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.
Translated by Habiba Mohamed, CIDT
CIDT secures £174,000 to raise awareness around COVID19 with indigenous communities in the Congo BasinContinue Reading
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.
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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.
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.
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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.