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Engagement with the indigenous Pygmy population to identify, locate, and protect valuable forest resources.
In the forests of the Congo basin, the absence of national legislation that recognises local peoples’ traditional rights to forest land (as opposed to farm land or habitations) is at the root of most of the conflicts between communities and forest companies.
Congolaise Industrielle des Bois (CIB), a subsidiary of the Danish timber conglomerate Dalhoff Larsen and Horneman Group (DLH), partnered with the Tropical Forest Trust (TFT), an international forest conservation organisation based in Geneva, to meet the standards for FSC certification in its forestry operations in the Congo Basin. A total of 750,000 ha of tropical forest have been certified as a result of this collaboration. Lucas van der Walt, CIB’s environment manager explains CIB’s motivation: ‘No one was sure if this kind of forest operation was possible in the Congo Basin, but we decided that if a company wants to be here for the long term, sustainable forest management is the only way forward. We hope that these efforts will ultimately translate into a smarter, cost-effective and more profitable business.’
The collaboration with TFT focused particularly on addressing the FSC Principle 2 (Tenure and Use Rights and Responsibilities) and 3 (Indigenous People’s Rights). A key area where TFT provided technical guidance was in building relations with the local semi-nomadic forest peoples, the Pygmies. This involved developing new techniques for consultation, conflict resolution and benefit sharing. An important technique was participatory mapping with icon-based Global Positioning System (GPS) units that could be used easily by the non-literate forest people. The Pygmies took the hand-held GPS devices as they walked through the forest and recorded, by selecting an icon, the location of any valuable forest resources (e.g. natural springs, sacred sites, gathering areas for medicinal plants, and important trees such as those that house edible caterpillars).
Another technique for promoting communication and mutual understanding is the establishment of a small radio station whose broadcasts are controlled by the forest Pygmies and local farmers. This is a way for the local communities to increase their understanding of and influence over the way that CIB manages the forest.
This information formed the basis for resource maps and subsequent negotiation. Valuable areas for the Pygmies were avoided during the exploitation of the timber resources in the area.