Time is ticking for the African rainforests

Posted by jamie — 5 April 2007 at 10:28am - Comments

Children of the Congo rainforest

In recent years, we've put a lot of effort into highlighting the threats facing what remains of the world's forests in North America, South America, and South East Asia. But there's one major area we haven't touched on for some time now: Africa. That's all about to change, however, and you'll be hearing more about what we've been up to in the coming weeks and months.

But first let's set the scene. The forest of the Congo basin stretches across central Africa, about two-thirds of which lies within the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) but also covers parts of Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, the Central African Republic and the Republic of Congo. And it's huge: only the Amazon rainforest is bigger. Millions of people depend on it for their survival, including semi-nomadic pygmy communities, and it's another biodiversity hotspot: forest elephants and three of the great ape species - gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos - all form part of a rich ecosystem.

It's a story familiar from other areas of our forest work, but all this is being threatened by our old friend, industrial logging. Huge tracts of the forest are being opened up by logging companies with hunters and miners following in their wake into previously inaccessible areas.

As so much of the forest is found in the DRC, we're focusing our efforts on what's happening there. It's a country emerging from a long, traumatic conflict which has left the newly-elected government struggling with rampant corruption and a lack of basic resources, including those needed to manage the forest.

The reason we’re making a noise about this now is because very soon the government of the DRC will make critical decisions about how their forest is to be managed. Either they'll come up with practical solutions to manage the forest in a manner that protects the people and wildlife that depend on it, or industrial logging will be allowed to destroy it all.

It's not just down to the local government though. Our government is a major donor to the DRC and so has a role to play in making sure proper safeguards are put in place to protect the forest. The £50 million Gordon Brown recently pledged to this very cause shows the prime minister-in-waiting is aware of the problem, but it remains to be seen whether this money will actually deliver benefits to the people of the Congo and will really help protect the rainforest and the global environment. Time will tell, and we'll be revealing more about what's happening in the DRC very soon.

Stay tuned.

About Jamie

I'm a forests campaigner working mainly on Indonesia. My personal mumblings can be found @shrinkydinky.

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