BOGOR, Indonesia (3 June, 2011)_The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is at once rich in natural resources and one of the poorest countries in the world. Now, as the DRC transitions out of instability and civil war, CIFOR is helping the country to rebuild the capacity to benefit from its valuable forest resources in a sustainable and equitable manner.
In 2005, a survey by CIFOR and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) revealed that there were fewer than 10 forest researchers in the whole of the DRC. The number had plummeted as a result of AIDS, war and emigration. It was clear that if the country was ever to pull itself out of poverty using its own rich resources, the forestry sector would have to be strengthened substantially.
Against this background, a CIFOR project funded by the European Commission sought to address forest research capacity in the DRC. The University of Kisangani—currently the only institution in the country with forestry expertise—was an important project partner, whilst a number of African and European universities assisted by providing lectures or supervising students.
By late 2010, at the end of the first phase of the project, 50 advanced degree students were being trained in forest ecology, conservation biology and sustainable forest management. The supply of trained technicians, research plots and study materials has been made possible through the project, which also includes an agricultural element overseen by FAO and the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture. A second phase of the project, which will run until 2013, will train an additional 40 Masters and 17 PhD students, increasing the national forest research capacity in the DRC by 1000%.