Advancing U.S. leadership in international conservation through public and private partnerships and developing the next generation of Congressional conservation leaders
Dr. Helen Gichohi, President, African Wildlife Foundation
The Congo River Basin is the world’s second largest rainforest, after the Amazon. It covers an area equal to the distance from Ohio to the Rocky Mountains. 60 million people depend directly on the forest for food, energy, and water. Over many years, insecurity in the region led to misuse and degradation of the Congo Basin forest.
To address this serious challenge, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) launched the Central Africa Regional Program for the Environment (CARPE) initiative to promote sustainable natural resource management in the Congo Basin. CARPE brokered a treaty to create the Central African Forests Commission (COMIFAC), which allows the ten countries in the Congo Basin to cooperate on conservation issues.
The CARPE program has led to the classification of over 13 million acres of forest as formal protected areas. CARPE has also trained 1,200 eco-guards to help manage the forest and stop poaching. Poaching is a low-risk/high-reward activity; therefore, many poachers are well-armed and well-organized. Poaching is especially devastating to rainforests, as wildlife does not regenerate as quickly as in other ecosystems, and poaching is a serious destabilizing force to national governments. Through the CARPE program, in the Sangha Tri-National Park alone more than 1,000 guns and 13,000 rounds of ammunition were confiscated from poachers in 2011. As a result, not a single elephant or gorilla was poached in the park during that time.
CARPE focuses on the livelihoods of people as well as small-scale agriculture, fisheries, and forestry investments that are then linked to markets downriver to provide outside income to the communities. Tourism in the Congo Basin has increased to the point where foreign money is no longer needed to pay for the current eco-guards.
By assisting local communities in the Congo Basin secure livelihoods through sustainable economic development and empowering local leaders to responsibly and sustainably manage their natural resources, American NGOs and agencies are promoting the long-term growth and stability of this strategically important region, as well as positively engaging other nations whose cooperation our own national security relies upon.
African Wildlife Foundation: Download presentation
IUCN: The Central African Regional Program for the Environment (CARPE)
USAID: Central Africa Regional Development Cooperation Strategy