FAO Regional Office for Africa

King and Queen of Belgium visit FAO forestry project in Democratic Republic of the Congo

Royal visit to the heart of the Miombo forest to see up close the fight against climate change

Photo: © Belgian Monarchy

15 June 2022, Katanga village, Democratic Republic of the Congo – King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of Belgium have praised efforts in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)’s Miombo forest to balance livelihoods with restoring the forest ecosystem, on a visit to the region this week.

"Your community is involved on a daily basis in the preservation of the Miombo forest. Your contribution to the fight against climate change must inspire us all,” King Philippe told community members during the royal visit. “Belgium congratulates you and thanks you for your efforts. I would also like to salute the boldness of the customary chiefs who have agreed to embark on this endeavour," he said.

Miombo is a vast African dryland forest ecosystem covering close to 2.7 million square kilometres across southern Africa including large parts of southern DRC’s Haut-Katanga province. Overexploitation of the Miombo ecosystem through unregulated charcoal production, slash-and-burn agriculture, unsustainable land use, and population pressure is threatening community livelihoods and the future of the forest.

In response, a project led by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization in partnership with the DRC Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, and funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) is promoting community-owned sustainable forest management to reduce carbon emissions and forest degradation while boosting community income-generation. The project also supports DRC’s national mission to plant one billion trees by 2030.

The royal couple visited Katanga village, about 90km north of the city of Lubumbashi, to see the project in action, with the DRC Prime Minister Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde, the Governor of Haut-Katanga province Jacques Kyabula Katwe, a delegation of customary and administrative local authorities, and FAO representatives.

Community forestry to serve local communities

Since February 2021, twenty communities have been allocated more than 200,000 hectares of forests each, under local community forest concessions, which they have committed to manage sustainably. FAO supported the communities to develop management plans that now determine the rules of control and access to forest resources and guide them in the implementation of their activities.

“These local forest concessions will contribute to improving  the social, economic and ecological environment of local communities and indigenous peoples and will transform the potential of their forests into visible wealth, leading to the improvement of the livelihoods of local residents," FAO Representative in DRC Aristide Ongone Obame said.

The communities have been trained in selecting and re-producing local species of trees in village nurseries. To date, around 483,000 seedlings have been produced to enrich 20,700 hectares of forest within the local concessions.

Training has also led to fifteen small and medium-sized forestry enterprises being established. These companies earn income from wood and non-wood forest products, including the sustainable production and marketing of honey, the improved processing of the roots of the "munkoyo" shrub to make a local drink, and the production of tree seedlings for sale. These activities contribute to the diversification of community sources of income and the improvement of food security in the project area.

The successes seen in this part of the Miombo forest have led to the development of a provincial strategy for scaling up the achievements of community forestry more widely.