SUPPORTING SUSTAINABLE NATURAL RESOURCE MANAGEMENT IN THE CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC

BY RINYU MCLAURA BEKWAKE

The Central African Republic (CAR) is a land-locked country that is home to over 80 different ethnic groups. Well supplied with waterways from the Ubangi and Chari rivers, CAR has savannahs in the North and dense tropical forests in the South, which cover over a third of the national territory. These landscapes are also home to bonobos, bongo antelopes, gorillas, elephants, and chimpanzees. However, due to unsustainable and illegal logging practices, high demand for fuelwood energy, and ineffective environmental policy frameworks, annual deforestation, and forest degradation rates in CAR continue to increase. Approximately half the population relies heavily on agriculture and forest resources for income and subsistence, which has led to an increase in the hunting of endangered species. Consequently, conserving the rich biodiversity and vast tropical forests of CAR is crucial for improving community livelihoods, global environmental health, and sustainable development initiatives.

To support sustainable development initiatives and livelihoods, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) has worked in the Congo Basin for over twenty years, collaborating with host country governments, universities, and local and international non-governmental organizations. USFS addresses and promotes sustainable forest and land management, biodiversity conservation, and responses to climate change. USFS has offices in Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, and the Republic of the Congo.

Bienvenu Florentin KEMANDA YOGO, the new USFS Country Coordinator in CAR, tours a national forest in West Virginia during an orientation in April. Photo by Christopher Reavis.

In November 2023, USFS opened an office in the Central African Republic (CAR) to promote and support the sustainable management of natural resources. In CAR, USFS has started working with the Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development, the Ministry of Water, Forests, Hunting and Fishing, local and non-governmental organizations, universities, and regional institutions. Bienvenu Florentin KEMANDA YOGO, the new USFS CAR Country Coordinator, is based in Bangui.

MEET THE COUNTRY COORDINATOR

Bienvenu Florentin KEMANDA YOGO is a Water and Forestry Design Engineer and holds a Master’s degree in Environment and Sustainable Development. With over fifteen years of experience, he has worked on biodiversity conservation, ecotourism development, forest governance processes (APV/FLEGT and REDD+), and forest community rights.

“USFS support in the Central African Republic is an opportunity to meet up with engagements to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in the fight against climate change,” says Bienvenu.

Discussing the challenges facing forests around the globe with Forest Service employees. Photo by Christopher Reavis.

With support from the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Central Africa Regional Program for the Environment (USAID/CARPE) and SilvaCarbon, USFS is currently engaged in collaborative activities with the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development and the Ministry of Water, forests, hunting and fishing.

After a successful session of the Central Africa Women’s Initiative for Climate Action (WICA) in 2023, a second national workshop was organized in March 2024 to introduce a new cohort of 30 fellows to the concept of climate change. During the workshop, the fellows were introduced to the evidence of the changing climate, its impacts, and global responses to tackle climate change. The fellows are receiving additional training through webinars and five high-performing fellows selected after the national workshop are receiving further training through an intensive diploma program on Measuring, Reporting, and Verification of greenhouse gases from the Greenhouse Gas Management Institute. Selected fellows will also have the opportunity to participate in national and international climate change conferences and seminars.

USFS is also collaborating with the National Climate Change Coordination of the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development to assess progress, gaps, and needs in establishing a National Forest Monitoring System. During a workshop in March, participants from the National Climate Change Coordination, the University of Bangui, and technicians from institutions in charge of forest and land use planning adopted a roadmap to implement a National Forest Monitoring System in CAR. Simultaneously, a study is underway to evaluate the current state of land restoration efforts in specific local government areas.

During a workshop in March, participants from the National Climate Change Coordination, the University of Bangui, and technicians from institutions in charge of forest and land use planning adopted a roadmap to implement a National Forest Monitoring System in CAR. Photo by Destin Lokegna, USFS.

As part of a broader effort by the USFS to support academic pursuits in natural resource management, this year USFS is also offering two undergraduate scholarships for Indigenous Central Africans at the University of Bangui and two Master’s degree scholarships for Central African students at the Regional Postgraduate School for Integrated Management of Forests and Tropical Territories (ERAIFT) in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. The selected students will begin their studies this year.


USFS, through USAID/CARPE, SilvaCarbon, and other U.S. Department of State programs, continues to collaborate with host governments, intergovernmental institutions, universities, and civil society organizations to address and promote sustainable forest and land management, biodiversity conservation, and responses to climate change across the Congo Basin.

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