31.05.2017. Over 140 participants attended a conference on The future of Central African Forest and its people in The Hague, to share lessons learned and look for a way forward together with representatives of the Dutch government, social and environmental NGOs, academia and the private sector.
The event was organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Global Compact Network – Netherlands and Tropenbos International, respectively represented by Ardi Soios-Braken, André van Hemstra and moderator René Boot.
The audience first heard about trends and developments in the Congo Basin from expert Verina Ingram, working with Wageningen University and Henk Hoefsloot, Tropenbos International. Then, Cécile Ndjebet, President of the African Women's Network for Community Management of Forests (REFACOF) explained the pivotal role that women can play for the future of tropical forests. Tropenbos DRC Director Alphone Maindo reminded everyone that humans are the most important biodiversity resource and that governance and securing rights require immediate attention.
After the break, Renzo Martens, Institute for Human Activity, presented a project that transformed a former Unilever rubber plantation in DRC into an equitable source of revenue for some of the workers, who succeeded in selling cocoa-made sculptures worldwide.
The ensuing panel debate addressed concrete actions that worked and what more could be done to keep the Congo Basin forests standing, together with Leslie Ouarzazi, CAFI Secretariat, UNDP; Jaap van der Waarde, WWF Netherlands; Hans Beeckman, Royal Museum for Central Africa and Tullia Baldassarri, Interholco. Highlights include:
1. Think ‘beyond the forest’ at the landscape level, considering energy, agriculture, mining, etc.
2. Invest in women, improve human rights, tenure and participatory land-use planning, responsible production and trade.
3. Help to engage the private sector with local communities, to develop inclusive business models as well as strengthening institutions to improve land and forest governance.
At the end of the conference came the launch of Central African Forests Forever, the new book by independent Dutch writer and conservationist Meindert Brouwer. The launch culminated in Meindert Brouwer’s decoration on behalf of the King, for his invaluable contribution to topics that are at the heart of the Netherland’s sustainability agenda. With its mix of eyewitness reports, interviews and expert advice, the book is essential reading for anyone interested in knowing more about the Congo Basin.
Interholco and its sustainable business model are featured in Chapter 5, ‘FSC-certified forest management: keeping forests and bettering lives’. A French edition is also available; for a preview and to order a copy, please see www.centralafricanforests.org
For more information on the conference, please contact:
Herman Savenije, Tropenbos International