Saving the Congolese rainforest - a pioneering, new initiative

Saving the Congolese rainforest - a pioneering, new initiative

During a crisis, you’d typically like the most competent people in the room to provide the solution.

With climate funding, that is often not the case. Studies show that less than one percent of global climate funds end up in the hands of local and Indigenous communities. For rainforest preservation, this means missing out on unique opportunities, as these communities are highly efficient conservators of their own homes, the forests.

When put in charge of forestry, local and Indigenous efforts yield higher biodiversity and less deforestation than projects based on external approaches. However, the voices of these communities are often the last to be heard – if at all – and important projects are stymied due to lack of funds.

The Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities Forest Facility (IFF) is a pioneering initiative to rectify this. Located in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), it provides a local organizing hub to directly administer funding where it is needed the most, in a part of the world that we all depend upon.

Saving the Congolese rainforest - video presentation

In our approach, as seen in Indigenous communities in general, we put people at the centre of conservation. For people to be at the centre of conservation, alternative activities must be developed, we need to improve living conditions and facilitate access to basic social services, like health care and education.

Ever since the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, we have been thinking of putting up this facility. Now we have put it in place! We need funds to experiment with and see what results it will bring us. In terms of ecosystem conservation, but also the improvement of living conditions in the communities.

Patrick Saidi Hemedi, national coordinator, DGPA

Congolese man sitting in a semi-circle viewing documents. Photo.

The Congolese rainforest is vast, encompassing diverse types of land and nature that are used in multiple ways. Efficient rainforest conservation in this area will depend on managing this intricate mosaic of both protected and unprotected areas with a multitude of local communities and stakeholders. Photos: RFN and Africapacity

A massive carbon sink

DRC’s vast tropical forests are declining rapidly through clearance and degradation. Maintaining their extent and ecological integrity is essential for climate-resilient development, and in order to secure their carbon stocks and other ecosystem services. The rainforest in the Congo Basin is the world's largest carbon sink, of which 62 percent is located in the DRC. Absorbing 1.5 billion tons of CO2 every year, its preservation is closely linked to the health of our global climate.

The current model of climate funding does not reach the people best equipped to deal with this urgent matter. When funds are channeled top-down through various organizations, as is common, Indigenous peoples and local communities are often excluded from decision making processes and funds don’t reach them.

It’s a pilot project. When we succeed here, it will be replicated everywhere!

Keddy Bosulu Mola, coordinator, REPALEF

Residents of the village of Penzele in DRC attend a meeting to talk about securing their forest. The IFF will work to preserve high-integrity forests via protection and Indigenous and community land tenure-mechanisms. Photo: Alexis Huguet/RFN

Rethinking climate funding

The Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities Forest Facility differs from the current model in one crucial point. It will catalyze protection and better management of the remaining large blocks of high-integrity forest in DRC in a sustainable and highly cost-effective way, by securing the land and resource rights of forest-dependent peoples and addressing their development needs.

Indigenous and local community groups will play a central and leading role in the governance of the forest facility. It will be set up to ensure that climate funding is channeled to local groups in a direct and cost-effective way.

Together with the Wildlife Conservation Society and other Forest For Life partners , Rainforest Foundation Norway is working closely with Indigenous and local community organizations to establish the facility.

With significant seed funding from the Bezos Earth Fund, Rainforest Foundation Norway will incubate the Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities Forest Facility, by providing guidance and technical support, to help establish a robust and autonomous institution.The financial support will be given to Indigenous and local communities, civil society organizations and research institutes. Groups that are usually unable to receive funding from existing donors will be prioritized.

Smaller grants will be given to support community-based activities that enhance local development and ensure forest preservation. Through a decentralized structure and flexible financial support, the forest facility will encourage and empower local and indigenous community ownership and initiatives.

The forest facility also aims to demonstrate how community-based rainforest management can contribute to economic development and poverty alleviation. These experiences of successful community strategies will be shared among NGOs, authorities and donors.

Congolese rainforest. Photo: Johan Wildhagen

We are happy with this fund. This fund involves the communities and Indigenous peoples in the decision making.

Regine Mboyo Loloko, Indigenous leader, DGPA

What will receive funding?

The Facility will deliver direct support to local groups and organizations doing projects on community-based forest management. It will also seek to strengthen how local communities and Indigenous Peoples take part in the management of protected areas. Further, it will support local civil society to engage more effectively with authorities on spatial planning processes.
An areal view of the rainforest with a hill at its center. Photo.

RFN solutions:

Scaling up support for Indigenous Peoples' rights and actions to protect their forests


Protecting high-integrity forests through involvement of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities


Nicolas Delaunay

External Relations Director
(+47) 457 39 480

Kevin Sasia

Forest For Life Senior Program Manager, DRC