The Democratic Republic of the Congo stretches over 900,000 square miles, has over 75 million inhabitants, and contains 60% of the Congo Basin’s forests. It is the largest country in the Congo Basin, but is also one of the world’s least developed. This presents a critical challenge, and opportunity, for biodiversity conservation, sustainable development, and climate change mitigation.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo spans diverse ecosystems, including active volcanoes, glaciers, savannah grasslands, and rich primary rainforests. It is the only home of the charismatic and endangered eastern lowland gorilla, the bonobo, one of our closest genetic relatives, and the elusive forest okapi, often described as a cross between a zebra and giraffe. Widely regarded, as one of the richest countries in the world in terms of minerals and natural resources, there is great potential for large-scale development and growth. However, this potential is currently hindered by institutional and governance challenges and recurring political instability.
Drawing on a range of expertise covering the many dimensions of forest, resource, and land management, the U.S. Forest Service has been working with the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, local and international NGOs, universities, and other technical partners on land use planning and forest zoning, forest inventory and monitoring, fire and rangeland management, community forestry, sustainable ecotourism, and capacity development. Since 2008, the U.S. Forest Service has had in-country staff based in the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development’s Department of Forest Inventory and Zoning.
Supporting national-level processes and providing technical training in the field, the U.S. Forest Service’s current technical assistance includes holding trainings on forest inventory and monitoring, soil sampling in peatland forests, developing a guide on participative land use management planning, training communities on sustainable fire management in the Mai Ndombe Province and developing hiking trails and other alternative ecotourism activities in Kahuzi-Biega and Virunga National Parks.