Building regional priorities in forests for development and adaptation to climate change in the Congo Basin


Indentifying common priorities in shared natural resource systems constitutes an important platform for implementing adaptation and a major step in sharing a common responsibility in addressing climate change. Predominated by discourses on REDD + (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation and conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries) with little emphasis on adaptation there is a risk of lack of policy measures in addressing climate change in the Congo Basin. Forest products and ecosystem services provide security portfolios for the predominantly rural communities, and play major roles in national development programmes in both revenue and employment opportunities. Thus, raising the profile of forests in the policy arena especially in the twin roles of addressing climate change in mitigation and adaptation and achieving resilient development is crucial. Within the framework of the Congo Basin Forests and Climate Change Adaptation project (COFCCA) project, science policy dialogue was conducted to identify and prioritize forest based sectors vulnerable to climate change but important to household livelihoods and national development. The goal of the prioritization process was for the development of intervention in forest as measures for climate change adaptation in Central Africa. Participants constituted a wide range of stakeholders (government, Non Governmental Organizations, research institutions, universities, community leaders, private sectors etc.) as representatives from three countries directly involved in the project: Cameroon, Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo. Building on national priorities, four forest related sectors were identified as common priorities at the regional level for focus on climate change adaptation. These sectors included: (1) energy with emphasis on fuel wood and Charcoal; (2) Water principally quality, quantity, accessibility, etc.; (3) Food with emphasis on Non Timber Forest Products, and (4) Health linked to healthcare products (medicinal plants). Using these prioritized sectors, the project focused on addressing the impacts of climate change on local communities and the development of adaptation strategies in the three pilot countries of the Congo Basin region. The four sectors constitute the key for development in the region and equally considered as priority sectors in the poverty reduction papers. Focused research on these sectors can help to inject the role of forests in national and local development and their potentials contributions to climate change adaptation in national and public discourses. Mainstreaming forest for climate change adaptation into national development planning is the key to improve policy coherence and effectiveness in forest management in the region.

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This paper has been produced with financial contributions from the Canadian Government through the International Development Research Center (IDRC) and the Department for International Development (DFID) of UK to the Adaptation to Climate Change in Africa (ACCA) program. Thanks to all those who participated to (or contributed to the organization of) the CoFCCA science policy dialogue. Many thanks go to Bruno Locatelli for his useful comments. The views expressed in this paper remain those of the authors.

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Correspondence to Denis J. Sonwa.

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Sonwa, D.J., Nkem, J.N., Idinoba, M.E. et al. Building regional priorities in forests for development and adaptation to climate change in the Congo Basin. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Change 17, 441–450 (2012).

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  • Congo Basin
  • Climate Change
  • adaptation
  • ecosystem services
  • development sectors
  • Science policy dialogue