Strengthening Forest Protection: USLAB Training Workshop
The Republic of the Congo (ROC) is home to expansive forests that contain diverse species and are crucial for mitigating global climate change. However, illegal logging and wildlife trafficking threaten these ecosystems, posing risks to both the environment and local communities dependent on these resources.
The first line of protection for these forests from illegal exploitations are usually eco-guards, known in ROC as the Unités de Surveillance et de Lutte Anti-Braconnage, or USLAB agents. While USLAB agents are usually tasked with tracking poachers and protecting endangered species, the growth of the forestry industry and urban expansion has led to an increase in the illegal exploitation and trade of timber and other forest products.
Eco-guards are the first line of protection for many forests. Photos by Jules SAMBA.
Faced with these additional threats to the forest, continuous training is essential for USLAB agents who are closest to these forest concessions to be able to protect them from illegal exploitation.
To support USLAB agents in northern ROC, the Ministry of Forest Economy and Sustainable Development and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), organized a training in Kabo. The training focused on the intricacies of forest legality, exploring the legal frameworks governing concessions granted by the State for forest exploitation. It went beyond theoretical knowledge, teaching practical skills such as verifying the legality and traceability of forest products, identifying signs of illegal harvesting in forest concessions, and fostering collaboration with customs, police, and other stakeholders in the forest control chain.
After the training, USLAB agents reflected on what they had learned, and many appreciated the content and the opportunity to discuss and exchange with their colleagues about how they could best collaborate. It also sparked discussions about replicating the training model on a bigger scale, as well as creating opportunities for USLABS to have a space to exchange regularly with other entities who are responsible for forest management.
This training was supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Central Africa Regional Program for the Environment (USAID/CARPE). USAID’s CARPE program has worked since 1995 to help protect and preserve forests and biodiversity within the Central Africa region.