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REDD+: PIREDD-plateaux, an encouraging model in the fight against deforestation in the DRC

WWF-DRC Country Director visited the PIREDD Plateaux project to see the impacting results in Mai-Ndombe

End of the year 2018, WWF-DRC Country Director, Mr Juan Seve, paid a visit to the PIREDD-Plateaux project, the headquarters of which is located in the territory of Mushie, in the Maï-Ndombe province. This field visit allowed to see the impacting results of the project in the practice of sustainable agriculture, reforestation and lands conservation, but also in infrastructures development.

"PIREDD-Plateaux" is one of the investment projects that helped lay the groundwork for  Maï-Ndombe Emissions Reduction Program - REDD - implementation, and one of the first large-scale REDD+ projects in the DRC.

Funded by the World Bank and managed by FIP - Forest Investment Program - supervised by the DRC Ministry of the Environment & Sustainable Development, PIREDD-Plateaux has initiated climate change mitigation actions through a holistic platform for strengthening land use and governance capacity that promotes sustainable development activities to reduce pressure on       forests.

This ambitious project is part of an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through payments for environmental services (PES) to local communities to encourage them stop with slash-and-burn agriculture in the forest and switch to sustainable agriculture. An approach that significantly reduces pressure on forests. In addition, the reforestation and lands protection carried out under the leadership of WWF-DRC, the local implementing agency, constitute direct sequestration of greenhouse gases.

Effective participation and efficient contribution of the rural populations in the Kwamouth and Mushie territories, organized into local governance structures called Local Development Committees (LDCs) ensure the success of the project. Populations focus on plantations of Acacia auriculiformis, Acacia Mangium and hybridization of these two species, intended for wood-energy production.

Besides, the project supports intercropping (broadband), especially cassava from improved cuttings, in the context of wood-energy plantations, and also the planting of fruit trees, chosen by populations. Finally, some communities engage in activities to protect wooded savannahs through fire control.

Communities have made visible and considerable progress under WWF’s supervision: Populations representatives are proud of the results after three years of the PIREDD-Plateaux project implementation.

However, it is important to note that the first year was dedicated to the project introduction , activities launch and awareness raising among populations. Therefore, most of the achievements observed on the ground have only two years. In most of the areas visited, acacia plantations have a high survival rate with, in less than two years, already closed stands of healthy trees reaching diameters of 8 cm or more. 

Successful results in the ‘mise en défens’ - lands conservation- thanks to the PIREDD project

The « Mise en défens » (Restriction to practice cutting and grazing in a land) is a technique that involves rest, by periodic rotations, of degraded surfaces to promote restoration of the ecosystem.

WWF Country Director had the opportunity to visit a clear model of this type of activity in Lobobi village in the Territory of Mushie. It’s about the conservation of 765 ha of man-made wooded savannah- planted with scattered trees. Less than two years of ‘mise en défens’, especially by ensuring control of bush fires, results are obvious. This is confirmed by the contrast observed on each side of a track: on the side with no ‘mise en défens’ we see the typical anthropogenic savanna of the area, where most of the remaining tree trunks are blackened by fire. On the other hand, on the side where the ‘mise en défens’ is practiced, in less than two years we observe the development of a secondary forest practically impenetrable without a machete.

Also, a positive sign is the return of wildlife or even the reported presence of a buffalo according to communities living there. Moreover, thanks to payments for environmental services received by the LDC for their efforts under the project, including lands conservation, they acquired a cassava mill (with diesel engine) where farmers grind the products of their harvest, with a payment to cover operating costs and depreciation of the mill.

Another encouraging fact is the success of Acacia plantations; some LDCs request to be allocated more lands to do more plantations.

Overall, these results indicate that the project is on track, especially as farmers begin to move away from subsistence shifting agriculture and move towards sedentary, entrepreneurial and profitable agriculture.
Farmers are increasingly aware that wood-energy plantations, as well as land conservation, constitute capital that can be exploited in a profitable and sustainable way in the future, since disciplined secondary forests resulting from land conservation may permanently provide raw materials for production and marketing of wood-energy.

Ongoing phase of the PIREDD-Plateaux project ends in December 2019. In this context, it is important to point out that, in addition to payments for environmental services, results obtained are largely due to the close supervision of local populations by WWF teams. However, WWF's other experiences in the eastern DRC clearly demonstrate that to move from subsistence farming to entrepreneurial, sustainable and profitable management of land,  the proximity management should continue for a good decade.

A new phase of the PIREDD Plateaux project will have to focus on consolidation of achievements, implementation of lessons learned, replication of tangible results, and especially the continuity of local supervision as ensured by WWF. In the future, this framework will have to focus not only on the technical aspects as covered by the first phase of the project (wood-energy plantations, agro-forestry, protection, etc.) but also on aspects of sustainable exploitation, transformation as the effective production of ‘makala’ (charcoal) as an example, and especially on the development of entrepreneurial and commercial capacities to evolve towards a sustainable and profitable use of village lands.

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