Traditional authorities in DRC join efforts to foster good governance in natural resources management
Eleven traditional leaders overseeing Protected Areas (PAs) in four provinces in the DRC (Kinshasa, Katanga, Southern and Eastern Kivu), met in Lubumbashi from 22 to 25 September 2013. They were invited by the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (Congolese Wildlife Authority), (ICCN) to take part in the ICCN’s 2nd networking workshop organized with the support of the German cooperation and the “biodiversités et forêts” (PBF) program. They were attending as part of the Community Conservation Strategy review process (SCoCo, 2007-2011) in order to assess and consolidate their contributions to natural resource conservation in customary and classified areas within their jurisdiction, while preserving the well being of riparian populations.
Their Majesties began by identifying a number of issues plaguing PAs in their zones. In this connection, the main problems they highlighted include: i) the authoritarian style of protected area management conducted by administrations in charge and non-registered officials (known as New Units-NU) who have neither legally recognised status nor mandates; ii) the absence of external boundaries for protected areas; iii) the resurgence of large scale poaching in PAs perpetrated by several segments of society including NU officials from the ICCN, iv) human-animal conflict, and v) a lack of basic social infrastructure. In light of these issues, they discussed their vision for natural resources management expressed in the form of key expectations as follows : i) engage traditional leaders who are auxiliaries of the State in protected area management, they are at the frontline of conservation efforts and in this respect, some of them received training at the end of the workshop on Wildlife Conservation Laws applicable in the DRC ii) they also expressed the need for technical, material and financial support to ensure efficiency in their work, notably in raising awareness of and informing provincial and local political/administrative authorities, but equally helping to monitor and design Local Development Plans, which entail structuring their communities and land zoning. Thus, based on this vision of a development framework for entities traditionally managed by the traditional chiefs, various development actors, be they NGOs or the State (including ICCN and PAs) as well as all donors (private, multi and bilateral cooperation) would be able to direct their support towards clearly identified, planned and budgeted needs. At the end of this important meeting which was highly commended by all, the traditional chiefs expressed their intention to provide a good example for their populations and competent authorities, and pledged in a deed of commitment to engage in the establishment of participatory co-management structures described in the SCoCo (Community Conservation Committee and the Community Conservation Management Council) which are the platforms responsible for development and nature conservation in PAs and buffer zones in the DRC.
The recommendations did not wait long to be implemented, already the ICCN and its partner PBF have supported a string of restitution-popularization sessions to raise awareness of the commitment. The sessions were conducted at the level of local populations by traditional leaders present at the workshop. Thus, in the provinces of South Kivu (Lwama Kivu and Itombwe Natural Reserve Hunting Areas) and Kinshasa (Bombo Lomene Hunting Area) meetings have already been held, and will be replicated at the end of year with other communities in the Kahuzi-Biega Kundelungu, Upemba, and Lomani National Parks.
The networking workshop report and the traditional rulers’ deed of commitment may be downloaded here below: