Interview with Bruno Perodeau, WWF Forest Program Manager, Democratic Republic of Congo.
In 2000, WWF established the Global Forest & Trade Network (GFTN) in Central Africa to support and guide logging companies that understand how sustainable logging practices and trade can lead to important advantages on the international market. Today, GFTN Central Africa facilitates access to markets where logging companies can sell their goods. It provides technical support to achieve certification in the countries of the Congo Basin including Cameroon, Central Africa Republic, DR Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and the Republic of Congo.
Bruno Perodeau works as Forest Programme Manager with WWF in the DRC, leading the GFTN operations in that country with his colleague Francois Makoloh. Bruno collaborates with a small but dedicated team of experts forging partnerships between forest managers and processors, NGO´s, governmental representatives, indigenous people and local communities who are all strongly committed to responsible forest management and trade along the whole forest supply chain, from the tropical forest to the retailer shelve.
In this interview Bruno talks about WWF’s work across the wider Congo Basin from his perspective in the DRC.
What are WWF’s priorities for the forests of the Congo Basin for the next coming years? Why?
Bruno Perodeau: The forests of the Congo Basin continue to be at risk from unsustainable timber extraction, bush meat trade and commercial forestry settlement markets, land clearing for agriculture and weak governance. Covering a total of over 181 million hectares, they constitute the second largest area of tropical forest left in the world and host an enormous wealth of biodiversity including more than 11,000 species of plants, 1,000 species of birds and 400 mammals, amongst which three of the four Great Apes species. They are also home to more than 40 million people whom depend directly on the forest for their income and livelihood. Finally, and apart from the vital role they play for global biodiversity conservation, they also provide important ecological services such as carbon sinks that help to mitigate climate change.
As such, the forests of the Congo Basin remain one of the key priorities for WWF. We are working with different partners in the Congo Basin to restore & conserve ecological processes, reduce our human footprint and support local economies. Through the GFTN, we focus on creating responsible forestry and trade practices that present the best opportunities for altering the global markets, challenging the future of this magnificent eco-region.
A long time ago, we understood that we wouldn´t be able to achieve conservation goals on our own. That´s why we are now strengthening our collaboration with different stakeholders in Central Africa to manage our forests more responsibly and to create global and local market access to responsible forest products: from private forest concession holders and processors to indigenous communities, and ultimately, through worldwide retailers. But there is still a lot of work to do, and we need to speed up our efforts to build a wider and stronger community that stands behind the concept of forest conservation.
Will efforts to introduce responsible forest management in DRC succeed in the longer-term? What do you think are the greatest challenges?
Bruno Perodeau: We are convinced that responsible forest management in DRC will prevail one day. We only hope that this will happen fast enough to ensure the conservation of the large areas that are now situated outside the protected areas and, as such, represent few or little safeguards for the tropical forest ecosystem. By the end of 2015, WWF would like to see all stakeholders actively participating in the implementation of some best practice pilot projects in the DRC that clearly demonstrate the benefits of responsible management, community involvement, conservation, trade, etc… to convince governments and politicians that this is the best participative model.
One of the remaining challenges is to raise awareness among civil society and political stakeholders as well as the forest industry sector about the urgent need to transform our consumption patterns and the way we produce and exploit our natural resources. We urgently need to change our behavior. Developed countries cannot ignore any longer their responsibility to maintain healthy ecosystems and promote the services they provide for all of us. The fact is that producing goods responsibly, respecting the environment, human rights and ensuring that communities receive a fair share of the benefits is not an easy task. It demands a lot of effort and financial means. I hope we can soon develop workable mechanisms in DRC, involving all stakeholders who will provide a stable platform for a commercial logging sector that will benefit wider society, forest dependent people and the development needs of the country.