REDD+ for People and Nature: scaling up participatory mapping into jurisdictional REDD+ in DRC

Maï-Ndombe province
2010 onwards
Mapping exercise
REDD+ for People and Nature mapping exercise © WWF-US / Julie Pudlowski
Key Lessons 
  • WWF’s early work on REDD+ readiness has been integrated into the first large scale, jurisdictional REDD+ programme in the Congo Basin. This uses participatory land use mapping as the first step towards stopping deforestation, by securing community land rights, set out in community-level land use plans.
  • REDD+ activities should be simple, avoiding proposals that are too technical or complex to be useful.
  • REDD+ activities need to be officially recognised by the government to facilitate scaling-up – the WWF shared its plans with the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) at an early stage, and this partnership has been crucial.
  • Early action among local communities, before they are asked to take action on REDD+, is essential to ensure they have the capacity to take informed decisions. Actions include intensive awareness-raising and the development of processes for free, prior and informed consent (FPIC). Community expectations of economic benefits need to be continually managed.
  • Linking the local needs and activities to national and global priorities brought international recognition and investment.

From 2009 onwards, WWF-DRC has worked in Maï-Ndombe province to develop, test and most recently implement actions for REDD+ (to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation, with safeguards for biodiversity and livelihoods). The REDD+ for People and Nature Project developed an integrated approach that addresses the province’s urgent social and environmental needs together. This has a view to reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation by tackling the direct and underlying causes of deforestation linked to rural poverty and lack of governance. The approach is based on micro-zoning – a type of participatory mapping – and land use plans that incorporate strengthened customary land rights and alternative livelihoods.

WWF-DRC and the Government continue to work together, and Maï-Ndombe remains at the forefront of national action on REDD+. WWF-DRC is a key partner in the REDD+ national strategy and a new jurisdictional REDD+ programme for Maï-Ndombe.

The Congo Basin is the second largest tropical rainforest in the world. Up to 60% of these forests (approximately 1.5 million km2) are in DRC. However, DRC is also among the top ten countries in the world for deforestation, with 350 000 ha lost annually, making forest protection a priority.

The natural riches in DRC contrast with extreme poverty: only 6% of the 71 million inhabitants have access to electricity, and 94% rely on the forest for firewood and charcoal. Every Congolese citizen has the right to use forests for personal uses. Fuel collection and small scale clearances for swidden farming are the major drivers of deforestation. Traditional management through customary tenure and clan-ownership of forests has been eroding. Indirect drivers include poor governance, lack of alternative livelihoods, and low capacity to address deforestation. In Maï-Ndombe province, which covers 12.3 million ha north east of the capital, fuelwood supply to Kinshasa is added to these drivers.

An example of indicators developed by WWF-DRC in Maï-Ndombe is given here.

International Forest Agenda/s 

Policy context

The Government of DRC formally engaged with REDD+ in 2009. The WWF initiated the REDD+ for People and Nature (RPAN) initiative in Maï-Ndombe province in 2010, and the same year, the Government presented this initiative to UNFCCC Conference in Cancun.

DRC formally adopted its REDD+ National Strategy in 2012, under the oversight of the National REDD+ Coordination (CN-REDD+), an operating body led by the Ministry of Environmental, Nature Conservation and Tourism (MECNT). An inter-ministerial REDD+ Committee ensures cross-sectoral participation, and a REDD+ National Committee draws in civil society.

In 2014, the Maï-Ndombe Emissions Reductions Programme Idea Note (ER-PIN) set out the goals and plans for jurisdictional REDD+ in the province, and was accepted by the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) Carbon Fund of the World Bank. Maï-Ndombe province is now hosting the first large scale, jurisdictional REDD+ and green development program in the Congo Basin. It incorporates national and international investment, community action and corporate projects, overseen by the Board of Direction (MECNT and CN-REDD) supported by an Advisory Board that includes WWF-DRC, national NGOs, FCPF, and private sector partners.

The early RPAN work laid the foundations for various aspects of the REDD+ National Strategy and the Maï-Ndombe jurisdictional REDD+ programme. It established the overall approach to address deforestation and poverty jointly. It provided the central methodology for doing this, based on participatory micro-zoning, mapping, and recognition of customary rights, described further below. RPAN developed additional key processes and methodologies that have been scaled up: for free prior informed consent (FPIC), Community Measurement, Reporting and Verification (CMRV) of REDD+ action, addressing social and environmental safeguards, and approaches to benefit sharing. RPAN also provided information on drivers of deforestation and carbon stocks, and the partnership brought resources and technical expertise, influencing international donors.

Community participation

At the local level, the WWF-DRC Maï-Ndombe RPAN project started as a capacity-building exercise to empower indigenous peoples and local communities to participate effectively in the REDD+ process in a way that recognised and addressed their rights. The principle was for REDD+ to be an implementation tool for a pro-poor development policy, to address the direct and underlying causes of deforestation connected with rural poverty and lack of governance.

Micro-zoning of community land has been a central component from the start. In the first phase, more than 750 men and women from 15 pilot communities participated in micro-zoning. Since then, the mapping of community land in order to clarify existing boundaries and create and manage new community forests has become the key activity for customary lands under the Maï-Ndombe Emissions Reductions Programme. Communities use the mapping processes to identify the areas of forest they want to protect and obtain payments for successful emission reductions. This is set out in land use plans, which also identify practical alternatives to deforestation and degradation, such as agroforestry, non-timber forest products, fish farming and intensifying the use of previously-cleared land.

Capacity building aims for communities to take informed decisions, and pays special attention to the vulnerable situation of indigenous people. Workshops explain the importance and applications of participatory mapping of forests and other land use areas, as well as the practical techniques for creating community land use maps and measuring carbon stocks. Further topics include REDD+ and its implications that can affect land rights; the use of computers to collect and record data; the application of FPIC; community forest management; and good governance. A train-the-trainer process has built local capacity to extend the REDD+ work across communities.

The most recent work by WWF-DRC includes the Carbon Map and Model project, which is taking forward work on CMRV in eastern Maï-Ndombe. This is described in this case study.

Monitoring methodology

Monitoring in Maï-Ndombe integrates experts from MECNT and WWF, who support the local community monitors to track various indicators such as those listed under the tabs here. For example, they work with local partners to establish permanent plots, as a mechanism to count trees and measure the biomass and the carbon dioxide absorbed. Residents of remote communities have been trained to carry out independent surveys of land use, and to upload the information onto computer databases.

Tree measurement
Measurements to calculate above ground biomass. © WWF-US / Julie Pudlowski

The ER-PIN states that indigenous and local communities will be an integral part of the monitoring process for jurisdictional REDD+, both for project-level activities and for overall carbon, social and biodiversity impacts. Various stakeholders are involved, for example Wildlife Works Carbon developed a best practice model for community-based assessment of social impacts. The community data will be incorporated into the national MRV system. This has been developed by the Direction of Inventories and Forest Improvement within the MECNT, who are responsible for integrating REDD+ data into the National Forest Monitoring System and REDD+ registry.

The Mai-Ndombe ER-PIN calculates that emissions from unplanned deforestation will be reduced by 25-50%. These emissions reductions will be independently verified, and linked to the National Forest Monitoring System and REDD+ Registry, which are under development. Independent verification of data on carbon and social and environmental safeguards also involves a network of local observers and the Moabi platform, to be described in another case study.

Sources of funding

The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation was a key funder of the RPAN initiative. The Maï-Ndombe Emissions Reductions Programme is funded by the FCPF Carbon Fund of the World Bank. DRC has also received funding from the UN-REDD programme to implement the REDD+ National Strategy, and was the first country to have its investment plan (of $60M) endorsed by the Forest Investment Programme (FIP, funded by the World Bank and Intergovernmental Regional Development Banks).

Achievements and challenges

From a small start in 2009, the work led by WWF-DRC has been successfully extended and integrated into the national REDD+ National Strategy. RPAN's overall approach and many specific methodologies have informed and been integrated into the first jurisdictional REDD+ programme for the Congo Basin, including participatory mapping and FPIC. National and local capacity for REDD+ has increased. The Maï-Ndombe Emissions Reductions Programme can be seen as an umbrella programme, working in close collaboration with ongoing and local initiatives. From the local to national level, the REDD+ initiatives show how emissions reductions, poverty reduction, and improvements in land tenure and customary land rights can be brought together.

The design of the REDD+ model in Maï-Ndombe is wide-ranging and involves intensive participation, but is relatively straightforward: communities receive payments to implement the land use plans they themselves develop, based on participatory mapping and land use zoning. Communities are beginning to demonstrate commitment to more sustainable practices, such as reduced clearance for agriculture, and more agrofroestry systems. The participatory land use planning and monitoring has reduced problems from overlapping usage titles and provided clarity on customary land boundaries. In some areas, participatory planning also resolved conflicts between neighbouring clans.

The ongoing roles of WWF-DRC include a particular role in CMRV, taking their work forward through the new Carbon Map and Model project, which verifies emissions reductions and maps biomass.

A number of challenges need to be addressed. Weak governance and law enforcement slow progress at the coordination level, and prevent the implementation of environmental legislation locally. Some local traditional authorities are complicit in illegal logging. A key focus will be building technical capacity and adequate safeguard and rights frameworks to ensure participation, appropriate benefit sharing and transparent REDD+ systems.

Poverty is a central challenge, linked to a lack of economic opportunities and inability to invest in long term sustainable practices. Most rural families receive little extension support, and have minimal incentives for alternative agricultural and energy options. Insecure land tenure encourages rapid exploitation of resources and further discourages investment and sustainable land use.

Community participation is essential, but also very time-consuming, as stakeholders need to be involved at multiple levels of the decision-making process, in a topic which is new to many. Sites are difficult to access and travelling is costly as well as time consuming. Community expectations of economic benefits have been high and need to be continually managed.