Investigating the problems
The first step of the initiative was to investigate where current problems lie within existing benefit sharing mechanisms in the forest sector. In Minganga, located in the Mokabi-Dzanga concession near the Central African Republic border, technicians held meetings with villagers to find out whether people are happy with the funds, and what their main needs are. They also met with local authorities and forest concessions holders.
An assessment across the whole Likouala and Sangha departments revealed the main problems. These include weak internal governance and a lack of technical and human capacity in regional administrations and villages.
“We noticed that a lot of things were not working” says Brice, who works as the National Technical Assistant for local development funds. “The money was not reaching the beneficiaries, the projects were badly designed, or there was no proper monitoring” Brice says.
Legal ambiguities mean that departmental authorities and local communities are often in charge of setting their own rules for local development funds. But these communities do not always have the technical know-how and experience to design the projects.
“Accountants were involved in the work but they don’t understand development projects, including planning, design and monitoring” says Lucien Mansissé, the Likouala Department Representative.
Ensuring good fund management through law
To improve the system further, the EU REDD Facility project is helping develop legally binding rules to ensure fund management activities are clear and accountable. Forest management experts from the EU REDD Facility are working with teams on the ground to consult the government on the implementation of new legal decrees.
“The most interesting part is that we can propose improvements by amending the legal texts,” says Brice.
The project is coordinating with other EU initiatives to regulate forest management practices. These include the European Union’s Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan. The EU FLEGT Action Plan aims to reduce illegal logging by strengthening sustainable and legal forest management, improving governance and promoting trade in legally produced timber.
The EU REDD Facility is assisting in this process by undertaking a participatory, bottom-up investigation to gather stakeholder knowledge. They are using this information to assess and identify where the legal texts can be improved.
Going forward, the facility is looking to cooperate with the country’s National REDD Coordination to help clarify the legal framework guiding local development funds.