Deforestation rates in DR Congo are increasing, releasing huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Recent research1 has found that much of this destruction is a result of farmers clearing land to gain extra cash.
The costs of education and healthcare are increasing. Some communities are deciding that the only way to meet these rising costs is to sell land to farmers growing cash crops. It’s a decision taken with a heavy heart, but when lives are at stake it can be the only option.
It had been previously assumed that forest was cleared for subsistence farming, but this is on a much larger scale. Pieter Moonen from the University of Leuven in Belgium was the lead author of the report. He has concerns about DRC’s current REDD+ policies in light of this new research, saying that a one size fits all approach won’t work when drivers of deforestation vary from region to region.
“Without local support for forest preservation, the outcome of such interventions is very uncertain. In that case, we risk wasting money and valuable time with REDD+.”
This is why Cool Earth’s partnerships always start with local people. On our recent trip to Lubutu, the team was pleased to hear how much the local community supported the project. Our fixer Caleb Kalenda, who’s visited over 80 rainforest projects, said “The people are more committed to saving their forest than I have ever seen and it’s because they’re in control. We need Cool Earth in every province.”
With local support, we can work with the community to find alternative sources of income, like mini solar grids, or women’s jewellery cooperatives. This, along with investments in health posts and schools eliminates the need to clear land for cash crops.
The DR Congo has one of the world’s highest levels of CO2 emissions from land use change. Data from Global Forest Watch Climate show the 7.9 million hectares of forest lost between 2001 and 2014 – an area bigger than the Czech Republic – released more than 2.9 billion metric tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere.
With the Cool Earth model we can buck this scary trend, putting communities back in control and protecting DRC’s unique rainforest.