Less charcoal to protect forests
The Congolese consume massive amounts of charcoal for cooking. In order to protect the forests, the government should monitor the situation more closely and provide alternative energy sources.
In the DR Congo, many people use charcoal to cook their meals. As the charcoal industry started flourishing, a lot of trees have to be destroyed, to the extent that charcoal poses a serious threat to the Congolese forests.
If the Congolese government wants to protect its biodiversity - an obligation it faces after ratifying the UN Convention on Biodiversity - charcoal must be of particular concern. In fact, the production and consumption of charcoal are indispensable indicators for monitoring biodiversity in Congo.
Congolese researchers have therefore tested how the production and consumption of charcoal can be measured and reported, with a focus on urban areas and their surroundings. In three provinces, including Kinshasa and Mbujimayi, they investigated which tree species are most commonly used.
The study showed that the use of charcoal is increasing significantly. Moreover, the administrations appeared to be insufficiently informed about the actual consumption. The researchers therefore propose that the various government services and scientists exchange more information. In addition, more studies should be carried out to determine how much wood and charcoal is used, as this is the only way for the government to gain a clear insight into the impact and evolution of charcoal production.
At the same time, there is an urgent need to work on alternative energy sources such as solar energy and biogas (through fermentation of biological material). Better access to electricity can also reduce the pressure on forests, and if people have more efficient cookers, they need less charcoal. The government can also promote agroforestry. By combining agriculture with tree cultivation, farmers not only get an additional income, but also an extra source of wood, which then no longer has to be extracted from the forests.
See also the original policy document (in French)
The research for this article was carried out with the support of CEBioS (= 'Capacities for Biodiversity and Sustainable Development'). This programme is financed by the Belgian Development Cooperation and is housed in the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS). CEBioS supports a number of countries such as Benin, DR Congo, Burundi and Vietnam in the development of indicators to monitor their biodiversity. This should allow them to better report on their biodiversity within the UN Convention on Biodiversity.
Within CEBioS, ten people follow up on 'biodiversity and development', including support for research, information, awareness-raising, policy advice and publications on biodiversity and development in the South. CEBioS also organises short internship visits in Belgium and on-site workshops for institutions in developing countries. Besides, it makes the colonial archives of the former national parks accessible by digitising them.