Congo Basin   


Securing the rights of forest peoples to remain on their territories and defend them from threats is fundamental  to forest protection in this region. Despite this, initiatives to protect forests peoples’ rights to land, resources and self-determination are patchy across the region. 

Lack of secure land tenure makes it possible for companies (and governments) to claim that land is ‘available’ for ‘development’, making large swathes of intact forests, rivers, wetlands and lakes – and their inhabitants – vulnerable to destructive activity.

Image © Chris Scarffe

Our programme empowers forest peoples in the DRC and Cameroon by:

Participatory mapping of ancestral territories, including identification of important ecosystems, wildlife and sacred sites.

Carried out properly, participatory mapping is not simply about mapping “land rights”, but creates a permanent record of peoples’ communal relationship with, and responsibility to defend, their forest: for instance, mapping sacred sites, trees or rivers that are important for wildlife or cultural practices.

Supporting forest peoples to revive and pass on their knowledge to younger generations about how to care for their territories.

Greater awareness and understanding of legal rights is the first step to enable forest peoples to better defend their territories and successfully advocate against destructive development projects.

Reforming policies to recognise forest peoples’ rights, the connection that they have with nature and the role they play in protecting it.

These roles and rights need to be recognised and respected across the board, for instance within mining policies, energy policies and economic policies.

* Images (L to R): Réseau Cref; Chris Scarffe; Chris Scarffe

“Much conservation is based on (an) exclusionary, colonial way of managing wild spaces, which, as far as I have seen in central Africa, is almost always ineffective. I don’t know a single national park that has genuinely succeeded in its objectives… Fundamentally, this alienation of local people and the failure to be equally tough on loggers, miners and plantation businesses, is at the heart of the problems facing conservation and is widespread right across central Africa.”

Dr Jerome Lewis, Reader in Social Anthropology, UCL and Synchronicity Earth advisor