news.mongabay: Is the forestry project of the French Development Agency threatening the peatlands of the DRC? (commentary)



  • An open letter to the Norwegian government rightly raises the question of the essential role of peatlands in carbon storage and the importance of not destroying them.
  • It seems, however, that this open letter, signed by some thirty scientists, imputes motives to the AFD unjustifiably and relies on inappropriate comparisons with Indonesia.
  • This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


Prof. Simon Lewis, a co-author of an article on peatlands in the Congo Basin published in Nature, recently proposed to scientists working on tropical forests that they sign an open letter asking the Norwegian government, which finances most of the CAFI (Central Africa Forests Initiative) programme in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), to reject the “sustainable forest management” project proposed by the French Development Agency, to be funded by the CAFI.



The text of the open letter states: “The Norwegian government will decide in the coming weeks whether to fund a programme proposed by the French Development Agency (AFD), one of whose objectives is to revive and expand the industrial logging sector in the forests of DRC. The proposed programme would also involve lifting the moratorium on the allocation of new logging concessions in DRC, which, due to forest governance failures, has been in place since 2002.”



Lewis is concerned that: “[T]he AFD proposal has not given adequate consideration to the potential damage of the program to DRC’s peatlands. Indeed, it does not mention them.”



He then compares the situation of the Congolese Central Cuvette with the peatlands of Indonesia:

The peatlands are highly sensitive to disturbance. Today, they remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. But, logging and altering drainage patterns easily tips tropical peatlands to releasing carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, as seen in Indonesia where logging peatlands has occurred extensively. In turn, the logging of Indonesian peatlands has led to serious forest fires with major human health, climate, and biodiversity impacts. These negative impacts have all been avoided, so far, in the Congo peatlands.




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