The Congo Basin rainforest covers nearly 2 million sq. km with nearly two-thirds of the Congo Basin forest cover being in the DRC while Cameroon and Congo claim 10 per cent and 9.61 per cent respectively. The UN estimates that at the beginning of the 21st century some 1.6 billion people around the world, including many of the world’s poorest, derived at least part of their food, income or medical needs directly from the forest.
At present, the Congo forest is a source of livelihood to over 75 million people who directly rely on the forest products for food, medicine, water, materials, and shelter. Due to population growth and several environmental stressors, significant loss of forest cover has been evidenced.
Most countries covered by the Congo Basin are still struggling to develop their local economies and reduce poverty. This heightens the demand for agricultural land by small-scale farmers, trees, and fuelwood by charcoal producers, land for roads and settlement in mining zones, and land for industrial expansion. Consequently, deforestation is inevitable as vast forest areas are opened up.
According to the World Bank, illegal logging contributes $15 billion losses globally. Demand for timber products leading to illegal logging creates new spaces for encroachments.
There are efforts to turn the tide against deforestation. One such forest restoration program includes the Bonne Challenge which aims to restore 150 million hectares of degraded land by 2020 while reducing emission from deforestation and degradation. In addition, Bonne Challenge program aims to integrate programs that provide alternative sources of livelihood through intensive land management that integrates fruit trees and crops on the same land.
Efforts to promote sustainable forest management in Africa are yet to bear desired results. Agroforestry is among solutions that are widely recommended for this to be achieved. In order to avoid further pressure on the forest, agroforestry offers a long-term and viable solution due to its nature of adaptability as it has multiple benefits. Many people in Congo basin have adopted the initiative which has significantly contributed to the reduced extraction of the forest resources for economic benefits as well as a viable strategy for improving food security.
A pledge by African countries to restore 150 million hectares of land by 2030 is part of another initiative to restore depleted resources.