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Interview with Clotilde Louisette Mollo Ngomba, CBFF Coordinator, Reversing the rate of deforestation in the Congo Basin

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Clotilde Louisette Mollo Ngomba CBFF

The first day of the African Development Bank (AfDB) Annual Meetings week focused on an exhibition of the Congo Basin Forest Fund (CBFF).  CBFF Coordinator, Clotide Louisette Mollo Ngomba, explains the fund’s objectives and expected outcomes of its activities.

Question: What are the objectives of the Congo Basin Forest Fund?

Answer: The Congo Basin Forest Fund(CBFF)  is a development support fund established in June 2008 with the twin goals of alleviating poverty and addressing climate change issues  by reducing, slowing an,  if possible, by eventually reversing the rate of deforestation in the Congo Basin.  The project proposals considered for financing must be in conformity with the Central Africa Forest Commission’s (COMIFAC) Convergence Plan. The CBFF grant financing areas essentially cover projects likely to help slow down the rate of deforestation, alleviating poverty by helping the local communities in the forest zones to secure their livelihoods, especially through means that are sustainable to reducing gas emissions while maximizing carbon storage.

Question: Who are the major shareholders of the fund?

Answer: Co-chaired by Noble Laureate Wangari Maathai, and Canada’s former Prime Minister Paul Martin, former Prime Minister, the Fund’s Governing Council is made up of representatives of COMIFAC, ECCAS, the AfDB, the civil society and donors. The fund’s financing is guaranteed by the governments of Great Britain and Norway. The CBFF Secretariat is hosted by the African Development Bank in Tunis. There are plans for the opening of branches within AfDB field offices in Yaoundé and Kinshasa.   

Question: Who is eligible for CBFF funds? What are the criteria?

Answer: CBFF activities cover the entire ten Central African countries who are COMIFAC members, namely; Burundi,  Cameroon, the Central Africa Republic, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo, Gabon, Rwanda, as well as Sao Tomé and Principe.   

The Member Countries’ state institutions, national and international non-governmental organizations, grass-roots community organizations, the private sector economic operators and forestry sector institutions could submit project proposals for CBFF funding.  Where the institution requesting funding is not A Congo Basin member country, the proposal must be submitted in partnership or consortium with an institution based in the region.   

All funding requests resulting from a partnership between individual organizations or a group of organizations working together are considered by the Fund. The CBFF is particularly interested in the partnership between government and the civil society or between government and the private sector.

The following are the indicative criteria for proposal selection:

  • Will the project contribute to the overall objectives of CBFF? Will the project reduce the rate of deforestation and will it reduce poverty in communities in the forest zones?
  • What is the project’s contribution to CBFF thematic issues?
  • Does the project conform to COMIFAC’s Convergence Plan?  
  • What is the proposal’s degree of innovation?
  • What is the project’s transformation potential?  

Question: Could you shed some light into some of CBFF’s successful projects?

Answer: Since the Fund only started operations recently, the majority of projects benefiting from its funding since 2009 are in the early stages of implementation.  Some of the projects however have already yielded far-reaching results on the ground. One can, among others, cite the following as examples:

  • Alternatives to mangrove forest destruction for the improvement of the conditions of women in Central Africa. This project will ensure the reduction of the quantities of wood used in the smoking of fish in Cameroon;
  • Progressive elimination of slash-and–burn farming technique by using organic drawn methods in ten pilot villages in the DRC’s equator province. This project will promote the use of organic drawn methods to maintain soil fertility, improving agricultural yields and the permanent holding of carbon.   

Question: What mechanisms have been put in place to ensure transparency and good governance in the allocation of funds to potential Congo Basin projects?

Answer: Project proposals are evaluated on the basis of pre-established criteria clearly indicated in the information notes to bidders. Then the proposals received are examined by a technical committee of experts followed by a cross- evaluation.   

The project approval is made by the fund’s board of directors. The projects approved by the board are subject to detailed appraisal to ensure that the final document conforms to national policies or those of the countries concerned. The board also ensures that participation of the local communities is effective and the relevant conditions for a successful implementation of the project are met in order to achieve expected outcomes.

Moreover, the grant agreements provide for the production of periodic technical and financial reports every quarter as well as an annual financial audit report. A post-evaluation report is also provided for at the end of the project.   

Question: Climate change is a threat to economic development and poverty reduction efforts. It is expected to result in loss of harvest, epidemics, livestock diseases, loss of arable land. How will this affect the Congo Basin region? How does the CBFF Secretariat plan to deal with this problem?

Answer: The Congo Basin forest spans over 200 million hectares. It is home and provides livelihood, to more than 50 million people, the majority of whom still live below the poverty line. These forests are facing several challenges threatening its existence. The annual rate of deforestation is estimated at 0. 16% or a loss of over 320,000 ha/annum. Poaching for a supply network of bush meat has resulted in the loss of certain animal species. Shifting cultivation, slash-and-burn farming, as well as informal and unsustainable exploitation of timber are constantly degrading the natural ecosystems of forest.   
Armed conflicts, poor governance, and lack of institutional capacity further reduce conservation efforts and promote forest degradation. In addition, the frequent occurrence of severe climatic incidents increases the vulnerability of the population whose livelihood is heavily dependent on the forest ecosystems.   

In order to mitigate this situation, the CBFF finances innovative and transformative initiatives aimed at reducing deforestation and poverty through sustainable management of forest resources and alternative revenue yielding activities. The Fund is also working in collaboration with other initiatives, in particular,  the World Bank’s FCPF and the UN-REDD to complement the actions of COMIFAC countries in the design  and implementation of REDD  programmes.   

Furthermore, some twenty REDD pilot projects initiated by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and some COMIFAC countries are either ongoing or at various stages of finalization. Other REDD projects have been announced and the CBFF hopes to obtain additional financing to deal with the challenges it is facing. 

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