News  |  24.09.2021

Defining the "forest" in the context of the Congo Basin

In early August, the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and COMIFAC co-organized a workshop in Brazzaville on the definition of the terms "forests", "deforestation" and "forest degradation".

Defining the "forest" in the context of the Congo Basin

It is indeed fundamental to target actions in the forest landscape and to fight against deforestation (including imported deforestation) to have precise definitions of these concepts. However, these definitions are currently lacking, as the situation in tropical countries, including within the Congo Basin, is so complex and heterogeneous.

The objective of this workshop was to reflect on a better positioning of agroforestry and livestock products in forest areas on regional, national and international markets.

After an initial discussion session, participants were divided into three groups to work on specific themes:

  • The first group worked on the definitions of "Forests", "Deforestation" and "Forest Degradation”
  • The second group worked on the issues of "Integrated forest governance" and “conducive institutional and organizational framework for the development of a sustainable forest economic system in central Africa”
  • Finally, the third group worked on the African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA), African markets dealing with agroforestry and livestock commodities, and permanent sectoral programmes.

It emerged from this workshop that there is an urgent need to reach a harmonized definition of the concepts of "forests", "deforestation" and "forest degradation". These should take into account a number of criteria, such as historical aspects, species present in the region, or biodiversity. However, due to the complexity of these concepts and the diversity of forest ecosystems in the Congo Basin sub-region, participants were unable to agree on a common definition of "forest". In order to define the terms "deforestation" and "forest degradation", it is first necessary to agree on the definition of "forest". Nevertheless, the exchanges remained enriching.

In the end, the discussions focused more on the forestry-wood sector than on the workshop's target activities: agroforestry and livestock. In addition, participants recommended that ECCAS strengthen its actions in the forestry-wood sector, in particular by putting in place a forestry policy specific to the Congo Basin, by harmonizing regulations on taxation and logging standards, by communicating internationally on the Congo Basin, the largest certified forest in the world, and its capacity to regulate climate change, or by establishing effective monitoring of forest management. In general, it was recommended that ECCAS, COMIFAC and their member states develop the promotion of national initiatives to combat climate change, to improve forestry practices, to restore forest landscapes, but also to better promote forest certification.

In order to put in place an institutional and organizational framework conducive to the development of a sustainable economic system in Central Africa, COMIFAC and ECCAS were also encouraged to work with the region's institutions involved in forest area management, to strengthen their capacity, and to provide the necessary funding.

Finally, participants reached various conclusions regarding the market place for forest-based agriculture and livestock products. The idea of developing a regional competitiveness plan for a sustainable agricultural strategy was formulated, as well as the desire to stimulate responsible intra-African markets and support private investment. The implementation of sustainable procurement policies for public purchases in administrations and the promotion of zero deforestation value chains by supporting companies committed to this approach were also highlighted.

In order to arrive at definitions for "forest", "deforestation" and "forest degradation", a roadmap was validated by the participants. Among others:

  • The terms of reference for the mobilization of experts will be finalized and validated by ECCAS member states in December 2021;
  • The work of the experts from the States will begin in January 2022;
  • The results of the work will then be presented in during 2022 for comments in each country;
  • Once this phase is completed, the experts from the various States will present the results to the Ministries of the member countries for final amendments and presentation for validation at the meeting of the Heads of State in November 2022.

The report of the workshop is available here