In an ideal world, the Congo Basin forests would be protected by a network of ecologically representative and financially viable protected areas, included in managed landscapes.
This system would span from the Ruwenzori Mountains in the east of the basin to the Gulf of Guinea, connected by conservation corridors of responsibly managed forests. In WWF’s experience, this process is a matter of joining the pieces.
WWF and protected areas
Over the decades, WWF has played a major role in helping set aside natural areas for biodiversity conservation. We support communities, local governments and other stakeholders to manage them for their long-term benefit – a sound investment for the future.
Perhaps one of WWF’s most critical works-in-progress under way globally is the Protected Areas Initiative, which seeks to:
- Promote the creation of new forest protected areas using WWF “Gifts to the Earth” as a major potential tool.
- Improve management of existing protected areas.
- Develop a practical tool for conservation planning.
- Lobby for improved protected area networks.
- Explore alternative methods for site-based biodiversity conservation.
Protected areas in the Congo River Basin
With rampant illegal logging and intense bushmeat hunting, it is more important than ever to protect areas of high biodiversity values.
However, equally important in the process is demonstrating to local communities that the establishment of protected areas will ultimately benefit their lives – even if this may limit the access of people to some areas that they had previously used. In Central Africa, where poverty is a fact of life, this process needs special consideration.
Why create protected areas when people need forests so badly?
When some protected areas are established, there may be local people who not being able to access areas they previously used for hunting or gathering timber and non-timber products. They need to find alternative solutions that may be more expensive and cumbersome, at least in the short term. So what good are protected areas to local people?
The best way to explain the benefits of protected areas is to illustrate what happens in their absence, or when their boundaries are not respected.