In a major achievement for civil society organizations in the Democratic Republic of Congo and for RRI, the country’s government has signed a decree clearly defining the status and attribution procedures for community forest concessions (CFCs). This decree recognizes the customary ownership rights of local communities over their forest concessions. The area of these concessions is extremely large — 50,000 hectares — especially compared to the less than 5,000 hectares of legally recognized community forests in Cameroon. The key articles of the decree are copied below. The full French version of the decree can be accessed by clicking here.
As defined by the present decree we understand that:
1. Local community forests: a portion of protected forests that a local community owns on a regular basis by virtue of custom;
2. local community forest concession: a forest which was attributed freely et perpetually to a local community by the State, on the basis of forests that it owns on a regular basis by virtue of custom, in view of its use, under whichever form, for the satisfaction of its vital needs, with the obligation of applying sustainable rules and management practices;
3. local community: a traditional population organized on the basis of custom and united by clan or parental solidarity ties which are the foundation of internal cohesion. It is characterized, in addition, by its attachment to a delimitated territory.
Any local community can obtain a forest concession on a portion or the totality of the forests it owns on a regular basis by virtue of custom, in accordance with the conditions and procedures established by the present decree.
The surface area of a local community forest is determined by the extent of the customary possession.
The surface area of a local community forest concession is determined by the applicant local community.
It is not permitted to attribute to a single local community, through one of multiple forest tenants, a forest concession surface area greater than a total of 50,000 ha.
However, in the case where a customary possession of a local community extends beyond the above mentioned surface area, the latter retains its customary rights on the portion that is not conceded and continues to exercise those rights in conformity with the concerned legislation.
Communities have full rights in the management of the forest concessions attributed to them.