Stacks of sustainable charcoal produced at Mampu cooperative site outside of Kinshasa visited as part of a scoping mission looking at alternative local species to integrate into agroforestry woodfuel systems to increase the volume of sustainable charcoal supply for urban areas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, carried out by the U.S. Forest Service International Programs and supported by USAID’s Africa Bureau in July 2018. Charcoal is the main source of cooking fuel in the the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and an increasing urban demand for it is resulting in forest degradation and deforestation.
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The U.S. Forest Service International Programs, through USAID’s Central Africa Regional Program for the Environment, is working in Central Africa to train communities on improved fire management. Uncontrolled fires pose a huge threat to Central African forests and can cause large releases of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere when burned, further exacerbating the effects of climate change. However, fire within forest-savannah mosaic landscapes in the Congo Basin can be both a management tool as well as a threat. If used in a sustainable manner, fire can help maintain pastureland and protect forests, farms, plantations, and villages. If used haphazardly, intentional and accidental fires can burn out of control, impacting large areas and threatening villages, farms, and forests. Here, during a trailing in May 2017, a local “fire brigade” is trained in how to control and suppress fire so that they can better deal with uncontrolled fires in their communities.
An eco-guard walks along a newly renovated trail and bridge in Kahuzi Biega National Park in May 2018. The U.S. Forest Service International Programs, in partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Society and supported by USAID’s Central Africa Program for the Environment, is working with Kahuzi Biega National Park to improve and expand tourist hiking trails as well as work with nearby communities to maintain newly rehabilitated trails. Building capacity of national park staff and local communities not only improves visitor experience and creates economic opportunities for neighboring communities, but also puts the park on track for long-term financial stability, an essential step in the long-term protection of these landscapes, and the preservation of the forests within them.
Participants in the peatland forest inventory training present their results to trainers Dr. John Hribljan of the U.S. Forest Service (far right) and Basile Mpati (second right), who works with the National Center for Forest Inventory and Zoning in the Republic of the Congo (CNIAF). This training, held by the U.S. Forest Service International Programs and the FAO and supported by USAID’s Central Africa Program for the Environment and the SilvaCarbon program, was an opportunity for technicians from the DRC Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development's Department of Forest Inventory and Zoning to learn about inventory sampling methods in peat forests so that they will be able to more accurately calculate how much carbon is currently stored in the country's forests. The Democratic Republic of Congo covers over 900,000 square miles and contains 60 percent of the Congo Basin’s forests, the second-largest tropical forest in the world after the Amazon. While there are many initiatives being put in place to sustainably manage these forests, the ability of national and regional actors to map and monitor them is an essential step in identifying critically threatened areas and developing effective resource management solutions to combat climate change.