By Joshua Isaac

Congo Basin affectionately called the ‘lungs of Africa’, is one of the world’s greatest allies against climate change, removing over 40 gigatons of carbon from the atmosphere annually and home to a diverse ecosystem.

However, evidence from the latest State of the Forests report by the Observatory for Central African Forests (OFAC) shows that the Congo Basin is under tremendous threat from large-scale deforestation, degradation, and the climate crisis.

“This is a global issue. The Congo Basin is a major source of rainfall in the Sahel region. A huge proportion of the world’s ecosystem services come from this region,” said Richard Eba’a Atyi, Regional Coordinator for Central Africa at the International Forestry Research and World Agroforestry (CIFOR-ICRAF), during a recent hybrid forum in Bonn, Germany that examined the state of central African forests.

According to the report, the continued uncontrolled human activities have subjected the forest to massive degradation, resulting in increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere hence impeding the efforts towards net zero by 2050.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the main contributor to climate change. It is released through natural processes such as volcanic eruptions, plant respiration, and animal and human breathing. According to the National Aeronautics Space Agency (NASA), the atmospheric CO2 concentration has doubled since the 1800s, mainly due to human activities.

Mining and logging activities are major drivers of deforestation in the region and are often carried out illegally or without concern for sustainability. Experts believe a better understanding of the Congo Basin’s forests is needed to address these root causes.

Congo Basin provides around 75 million people with vital natural resources, spanning Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.

Despite their critical importance, the forests of the Congo Basin are being destroyed at an alarming rate, with projections suggesting that they could shrink by more than a quarter by 2050 unless urgent action is taken.

Eba’a Atyi underscored the significance of the forest to the world and emphasized the role of science in ensuring the proper management of natural resources, adding that, “it is difficult to manage natural resources if we have no information about them. Science is needed to inform those in charge of decision making, and this requires not only human but also financial resources.”

With the forest and environment sector in Central Africa accounting for only 11.5% of global financing for the conservation and sustainable management of tropical forests over ten years from 2008 to 2017, experts urge urgent action to secure funding for the preservation of these high-integrity forests.

“It’s not conservation for conservation’s sake, but for the benefit of the local communities and Indigenous Peoples who live there and their livelihoods and well-being. If we have those forests standing there today, it is because people are caring for them,” said Dr Aurelie Flore Koumba Pambo, Facilitator at the Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP).