Community Forests


Our Community Forest programme aims improve livelihoods while reducing deforestation and protecting biodiversity in the Congo Basin by establishing a successful and scalable model founded on the rights and priorities of local communities, including those of marginalised groups such as indigenous peoples and women. 


The issue

To date, the forest sector in Africa’s Congo Basin has strongly favoured large-scale land allocations over community-based forest management. In the Central African Republic, for example, virtually the entire rainforest area is allocated to industrial logging concessions and strictly protected areas, denying forest peoples any control over their traditional lands. However, over time this model has generated little developmental or environmental benefit and there is now a growing consensus that strengthening forest communities’ rights is a more effective means of both protecting rainforests and fighting poverty.

Across the region, legal reforms are opening up the possibility of collective land management, notably in the Democratic Republic of Congo where groundbreaking community forest legislation allows communities to secure and manage their traditional lands in perpetuity.

What we're doing

  • To ensure the sustainability of national community forestry processes, we push for the ongoing improvement of related laws and policies, promote multi-actor dialogue and integration with other forest and land reforms, and strengthen the capacity of forest administrations and local civil society to fulfil their important role in supporting communities.
  • On the ground, we support dozens of local communities to understand and navigate their countries' forestry laws, submit applications, and to develop simple management plans and sustainable livelihoods.
  • In DRC, more than three million hectares have so far been set up as community forests, with potentially tens of millions more available to local communities to manage their forests according to their own customs and needs. In CAR, where there is a lack of available land, we support piloting of co-management approaches between community forests and overlapping logging concessions.

Our impacts


Over 100,000 hectares secured

We have supported some of the first community forests in DRC, securing the rights of more than 20,000 people and protecting over 100,000 hectares.


A national community forest atlas for DRC

We have developed and support the Community Forests Database, containing all the official information about every concession granted and under consideration in the country.


Major policy advances for people and forests

We have successfully lobbied for one of the most progressive community laws, a National Strategy to guide its implementation and to be a key pillar of the government's climate plan.

"For a long time, we’ve seen loggers come here. It was not good. We only knew that the State had sold the forest, and the loggers kept coming… Then you [RFUK and local partner GASHE] came to support us in obtaining our community forest. Our hope is that we reach the end of this process so that the forest belongs to us and we can manage it how we wish…"

Dembele Alexi, village chief - Mibenga, Equateur, DRC

" What I like most (about my work with local communities) is the gender aspect… ‘Gender mainstreaming’ means that there will be women's involvement throughout. Women are not only central to family life, but they also have an important role to play in the use of forest resources…"

Ruth Badubaye, community organiser, Group d'Action pour Sauver l'Homme et son Environnement (GASHE)

"There are lots of hippos on our land. I hope that community forestry will help us better protect them. Perhaps we could start doing eco-tourism, or invite scientists to come and study them."

Robert Corneille Nkamba Itinga Bongo, community leader - Irebu village, Equateur, DRC

Featured publications

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Yaoundé Declaration Declaration: Statement concerning community forestry in the Congo Basin region

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Participatory Mapping and Community Forests in the Democratic Republic of Congo

A National Strategy for Community Forestry in Democratic Republic of Congo

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Central African Republic: Linking rights, capacity strengthening, REDD and FLEGT