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Communities To Be Paid For Preserving Forests 

By Leocadia Bongben

Persons living around community forests would henceforth be paid for preserving the forests in the Congo Basin. 

A pilot project on Community Payment for Ecosystem Services, PES, in the Congo Basin was launched recently to test the project in two communities.The pilot project was launched during a workshop that brought together Baka people, government officials and stakeholders in the environment and forestry sector in Yaounde last week.

Organised by the Centre Pour l’Environnement ET le Development, CED, and it partners, BioClimate Research and Development and Rainforest Foundation UK, the workshop was an attempt at integrating communities in negotiations related to the reduction of emissions through deforestation and degradation. In the same vein, the project hopes to positively assist communities to protect forest resources and create more sustainable livelihoods.

According to Willie McGhee, Project Development Director of BioClimate and Research Development from the UK, communities would be paid following the Plan VIVO, from the Spanish word Living plan. This is a system designed to reduce poverty by paying rural communities for providing ecosystem services in developing countries.

The amount of money to be paid to a community would be determined after a photograph of the carbon stock in the forest depending on a mechanism of calculation designed by Bioclimate Research Development. The project on PES was designed to solve a difficulty analysed by the Secretary General of CED, Samuel Nguiffo.

Identifying the difficulty in the management of community forests, Nguiffo explained that communities living next to the forest do no benefit from it despite the fact that it generates a lot of money. The CED Scribe said communities are paying the highest cost in the present forest management model whereby livelihoods are lost; the community suffers restrictions to protected areas and have no access to financial benefits.

Nguiffo maintained that community forests were therefore designed to make sure that communities get part of the money from forest management. He, however, regretted that this is not working as planned. The project explored measures of involving communities to get cash payment for preserving the forest by making sure those forests are managed and conserved. He cautioned that the payment is not for the carbon but, for the quality of their forest.

He insisted that, by properly managing community forests, the community is providing service to the humanity in reducing the volume of carbon sent into the atmosphere and that someone should pay for it. The CED official said the Congo Basin Forest Fund, which is paying for the services, was put in place by the British and Norwegian governments amongst others.

He debunked allegations that the new model would engender already existing conflicts, arguing that there are two types of conflicts on community forests. He said some groups feel excluded and some persons confiscate the management of forests to their advantage with others claiming ownership. Besides, Nguiffo emphasised that some communities lack the financial means and expertise to exploit the forest. He said the project would draw from conflicts to identify representative institutions in the community.

According to Nguiffo, the community would identify the best way of generating and how this would be utilised effectively following the plan. Two communities have been selected for the pilot project.  Before payment, management institutions would be identified or what the communities consider as legal institutions and the ways of legitimate payment and how the money would be utilised to be profitable to all.

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