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.
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
Promoting forest peoples’ rights
Partner Profile: Dynamique Des Groupes des Peuples Autochtones (DGPA)
Dynamique des Groupes des Peuples Autochtones (DGPA) is a network of around 45 organisations, including indigenous forest peoples’ groups, working to secure the rights of indigenous peoples, as well as improve recognition of the role that they play in protecting forests and associated biodiversity. DGPA supports forest peoples to remain on and defend their ancestral territories and to revive and protect their ways of life and traditional environmental knowledge. Synchronicity Earth has supported DGPA since 2014 across a range of programmes.
In 2018, our support contributed to DGPA successfully promoting the formal adoption of an Edict in Mai Ndombe, the first in the DRC, recognising the rights of the indigenous Batwa. As a result, DGPA estimates that over 10,000 km2 of forest should be protected from destructive logging and agricultural activities as it will now fall within Batwa territories. Mai Ndombe has long been considered to have extremely high levels of discrimination against indigenous peoples, but now it acts as a pioneer for indigenous rights in the DRC. We are supporting DGPA to ensure proper implementation of the Edict.
Image © Chris Scarffe
“The indigenous Batwa people, thanks to their wisdom and through their indigenous knowledge, have known how to preserve these forest ecosystems of the great Congo Basin.”
Patrick Saidi, Dynamique des Groupes des Peuples Autochtones
Our Congo Basin Programme
Empowering civil society to resist and reduce threats to ecosystems and biodiversity from destructive developments.
Support communities and indigenous peoples to revive ecosystems and biodiversity through regenerative approaches to development.