Giving Government Officials the Skills and Tools to Protect Forests in the Republic of the Congo

In the Republic of the Congo, forests are an important economic and ecological resource. However, illegal logging practices and uncontrolled mining and agricultural expansion are threats to these vast forests, which are critical for the country’s sustainable economic development. In order to protect Congo’s forests, the U.S. Forest Service, supported by USAID’s Central Africa Regional Program for the Environment, is working with the Ministry of Forest Economy to expand the government’s ability to protect this valuable and irreplaceable resource.

From October 9th to the 18th, 2017, an advanced remote sensing training was held with government employees from the Ministry of Forest Economy in Brazzaville. The intensive training, given by members of the Central African Satellite Forest Observatory, a regional nonprofit remote sensing firm, focused on teaching participants how to harness cutting edge software used to measure, map, and monitor forests. Participants learned from remote sensing experts how to create models to help them monitor deforestation as well as develop more precise estimates of the carbon contained within their forests.

Leslie Bouetou-Kadilamio, who heads the office of cartography within the Office of National Forest Inventory, was excited to have the opportunity to learn how new software can assist with better management of forest resources. “This training will help us better monitor our existing forests, as well as understand where and why our forests are in danger.”

Estimating forest cover change is an ever-improving science, and trainings like these help government employees like Leslie better carry out their jobs. “Improving our knowledge of these new technologies is essential in helping us prioritize forests that need to be protected,” she noted. “If we are able to make accurate deforestation estimates, we are then also able to improve decisions made about where to create protected areas or invest our limited resources to improve how forests are being managed.”

U.S. Ambassador Todd Haskell addressed the participants at the end of their ten-day training to commend them for their hard work. “The United States is committed to helping strengthen the capacity of national and regional institutions,” the Ambassador noted in his remarks, “as well as ensuring technology transfer and investing in the training of competent cadres of professionals to be able to respond to new challenges such as climate change.”

The Minister of Forest Economy Rosalie Matondo also spoke to the newly formed professionals. “This week you have been the students, but now we task you with sharing your new knowledge with colleagues, both in our ministry and in others. Our forests are important,” she added, “and we must continue to work together to protect them.”

Below: Participants in the advanced remote sensing training take a few moments after their several weeks of hard work to pose with the Minister of Forest Economy Rosalie Matondo and U.S. Ambassador Todd Haskell.

USAID’s Central African Regional Program for the Environment has worked since 1995 to help protect and preserve forests and biodiversity within the region. Capacity building at the government level is an essential part in ensuring that effective environmental management policies are enacted at the national level. As an implementing partner, the U.S. Forest Service is committed to working with technicians to offer targeted, high-level trainings that help partner governments succeed in their efforts to conserve and manage forest resources in the long term.

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