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West and Central African forests
The Democratic Republic of Congo lost more forest cover last year than any other country in the world except for Brazil. It’s the continuation of more than a decade of forest loss, mainly due to slash and burn agriculture. On 26 November, AFD signed an agreement with the Congolese Government to support sustainable agriculture in the country’s savannas and degraded forests. The project – financed by a €13.5 million fund delegation from the Central African Forest Initiative – seeks to protect tree cover as both a precious natural habitat, and a bulwark against CO2 emissions.

Slash and burn agriculture is causing devastating deforestation in the Democratic Republic of Congo. According to Global Forest Watch, the DRC has lost more than 13 million hectares of forest cover since the year 2000, amounting to a 6.7% loss so far. 

That’s the equivalent of 130,000 kms² - roughly the size of England. Some trees are hundreds of years old, and provide vital cover for countless animals including elephants and gorillas, and store vast amounts of carbon. AFD’s agreement with the Congolese government hopes to slow and possibly begin to reverse that trend. 

Central African forests, Gabon, Congo
© Pierre Terdjman

In the savannas of Kwilu Province and the degraded forests of Tshopo, the project aims to provide farmers with incentives to remain on their land, and discourages expansion to neighboring, vulnerable areas in need of protection. 

Financial services and support for sustainable sectors, compatible with agro-forestry and agro-ecology, should also help preserve forest cover.

Relieving Pressure on Forests

Launched during the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit in September 2015, the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI) helps governments implement reforms and scale up investments to mitigate poverty, food insecurity and climate change, which all put pressure on rainforests. 

France took over as chair in 2019. In March, the French Government stressed the need to preserve Central African forests during the One Planet Summit. This priority was reaffirmed during the United Nations summit in New York on 23 September with the launch of the Tropical Forest Alliance, which the Democratic Republic of Congo joined. DRC is one of AFD’s six countries of operation covered by CAFI. 

Each State has signed a letter of intent setting out the objectives to be achieved under their REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) strategy.

This effort to protect one of the world’s largest areas of forest cover could have implications not only in the Congo, but also for the world’s carbon emissions and for the health of the planet.