26 July 2012, Rome - A new regional initiative will help ten Central African countries to set up advanced national forest monitoring systems, FAO announced today. The ten countries are part of the Congo Basin and include Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Rwanda and São Tomé and Principe.
The forestry project will be managed jointly by the Central Africa Forests Commission (COMIFAC) and FAO in close collaboration with the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research (INPE). The Congo Basin Forests Fund, launched by the Governments of Norway and the United Kingdom through the African Development Bank is funding the initiative with €6.1 million.
The forests of Africa's Congo Basin, approximately 200 million hectares, are one of the world's largest primary rainforests, second only to the Amazon. The region's forests support the livelihoods of some 60 million people.
According to data provided by COMIFAC, the gross deforestation annual rate in Congo Basin was 0.13 percent between 1990 and 2000 and it doubled in the period of 2000-2005.
Although this deforestation rate is relatively low, the main threats to these forests include land-use change, unsustainable logging and mining. The impact of the direct threats, the rates of forest cover change and the subsequent emissions from deforestation and forest degradation activities remain poorly understood partly due to the lack of up-to- date and accurate information on the current state of forests in the region.
"Learning from Brazil, the national forest monitoring system is the key element to pave the road for substantive international support to protect forests and promote sustainable forest management," said Eduardo Rojas, Assistant Director-General of the FAO Forestry Department.
"This project will reinforce regional capacity and allow COMIFAC countries to strengthen their cooperation in the forestry sector, in particular with regards to their capacities to provide transparent and reliable data and information on forests. All COMIFAC countries are currently implementing forest conservation policies, and the national forest monitoring systems that will be supported through this project will allow countries to report on their results," said Raymond Mbitikon, Executive Secretary of COMIFAC.
Improving national monitoring capacity
FAO will provide technical support to the countries enabling them to use remote sensing technologies to estimate forest cover and forest cover changes as well as to estimate the amount of carbon stocks contained in forests in the region. The project will assist countries in preparing funding proposals for creating reliable and sustainable forest monitoring systems for each country, as part of the REDD+ initiative (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries). It will also help strengthen regional cooperation and experience sharing.
REDD seeks to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests, offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development.