Forests and forest carbon

Forests in the Congo Basin
The vast forests of the Congo Basin are unique on account of the rich biodiversity they harbour, the people who live in and around them, and the environmental services they provide, not only to many countries in Central Africa, but also to the world as a whole. These forests are being slowly destroyed by a variety of economic and social forces that include population growth, agricultural expansion, extractive industries (including forest products), and major development projects, all combined with weak institutional frameworks. 

In response to these challenges, WWF has designed the Green Heart of Africa (GHoA) Initiative, which was set up to drive tangible, transformational and sustainable change. The Regional Forest Programme represents one of the four pillars of the GHoA initiative, alongside Wildlife Crime Programme, Protected Areas and Green Economy.

Programme target
The forest programme targets a total of 14 million ha of forests under corporate forest management units as well as the area under community management.

Along with the conservation of these forest ecosystems, the programme contributes to the protection of threatened biodiversity targets such as elephants, small primates and apes, for which forests are the main habitat.
A peculiar feature of the the Cameroonian highlands forest is that it is almost always covered in clouds.
© jamesmorgan
Amazing arial view
© jamesmorgan
Korup National Park - Tropical rainforest, Cameroon

Forest programme strategy

The programme focuses on regional bodies, national governments, private companies, forest communities and civil society organizations implementing sustainable forest management principles and practices and responsible forest product trade, aiming at the strategic target of zero net deforestation in 2020.

In order to attain this goal, the programme’s action plan has been structured on the following strategies: a) Policy development for forest conservation; b) Responsible forest management and certification; c) Strengthening civil society for more efficient conservation partnerships; d) REDD+; and e) Communication on lessons learnt.
  • Policy development for forest conservation: In collaboration with regional bodies (especially Central African Forests Commission - COMIFAC), national governments, civil society organisations and other stakeholders, the Forest Programme highlights the need for new and/or revised and harmonised legislation. This contributes to improving the forest sector policy at both regional and national levels. It also encourages transparent participatory processes, whereby civil society contribute efficiently to ensure local and indigenous peoples benefit from economic development in their surroundings and forests continue to supply ecosystem services for future generations. Together with other partners, it facilitates opportunities for consultations between different actors. In some countries, the Forest Code and the Mining Code have conflicting regulations, thus requiring harmonisation and adjustment through bylaws.
  • Responsible forest management and certification: In this field, the Forest Programme operates largely within the framework of the GFTN    (, which is WWF’s global initiative that aims to eliminate illegal logging and drive improvements in forest management while transforming the global market place, as a key part of the market transformation initiative (MTI -, into a force for saving the world’s valuable and threatened forests. GFTN has been operating in Central Africa since 2003 through formal collaboration with several forest products companies in the five countries, helping them advance toward FSC certification. The work also includes improvement of standards.
  • Strengthening civil society for more efficient conservation partnerships: WWF strengthens civil society in order to enhance its capacity to engage in policy dialogue and hold decision makers responsible for their decisions. This is important to ensure that local and indigenous peoples’ voices are heard and that forestry taxes, for instance, are reinvested in local development projects. A stronger civil society is also capable of acting as independent observer of forestry companies and of denouncing illegal operations.
  • REDD+: In this area, the Forest Programme works on climate change, mainly on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, forest conservation, sustainable forest management and activities to enhance forest carbon sinks. This UN-backed scheme is known as REDD+. It works to combat climate change by providing incentives for people for reducing carbon emissions by keeping forests standing for forest ecosystem services. The work is done at several levels: global (participation in international working groups bringing lessons from the field), regional (supporting COMIFAC and countries ahead of big international meetings), national (helping governments prepare their REDD+ strategies and action plans) and local.
  • Communications: Through effective communications, the Forest Programme highlights the positive and negative impacts of policies and laws on forests, people and wildlife. More needs to be said about the good progress by responsible forest companies, just like irregular or irresponsible practices by other companies must be flagged.  Some of our key messages include, but are not be limited to: 1) illegal logging deprive people and nations of important tax revenue that result in fewer social services, 2) FSC certification is the only credible certification system available for countries in the Congo Basin, which have poor governance, 3) the best way people can influence forest management in the sub-region is to buy products from responsibly managed forests with third party verification, 4) the European Timber Regulation and Voluntary Partnership Agreements provide important momentum to reform the forest sector and to engage companies that for different reasons have not yet decided to work towards certification.


The main direct threats affecting the Congo Basin’s forests and the wildlife they support include:
1. Illegal commercial hunting
2. Unsustainable timber harvest Infrastructure
3. Climate change

Other threats include:
4. Slash-and-burn farming
5. Mining
6. Commercial agriculture
© © Martin HARVEY / WWF
Conservation Issues A bulldozer clears trees and vegetation to build a road into logging concession areas. Gabon Central Africa
© © Martin HARVEY / WWF


Despite the challenges, we are confident that our Forest Programme can be successful. Strengths and opportunities include:
  • WWF’s long history in the Congo Basin
  • Strong relationships with the forest administrations of the five countries
  • Strong working links with regional bodies, such as COMIFAC
  • Our successful global work with the forestry industry through GFTN, with concrete accomplishments in Congo Basin countries
  • Successful experiences of setting up community forest management projects and community-based forest enterprises
  • Opportunities to influence forest legislation, which is undergoing revisions in several countries
  • The Brazzaville summit of 2005, which established COMIFAC and its convergence plan
  • FSC certification in the Congo Basin


The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an independent, non-governmental, not for profit organization established to promote the sustainable management of the world's forests.