Replenishing forestry researchers in the Democratic Republic of Congo

The DRC's forests are teeming with unique plant and animal life, cover more than half the country, and are relied on by about two-thirds of the population. However, years of conflict and economic instability have seen these forests exploited for short-term profits.

In 2005, with training programs disrupted and money in scarce supply, there were just six Congolese forestry researchers – a bleak reality for a country working to improve its forest management.

CIFOR and its partners set out to tackle the issue in 2007, implementing the EU funded projects REAFOR and REFORCO. The projects aimed to strengthen the forestry sector by supporting the training of dozens of Masters and PhD students. CIFOR has since expanded on that success. The FCCC project, led by CIFOR's Andrew Wardell, is making sure DRC has the teaching facilities and research expertise it needs to manage and protect the second largest contiguous area of tropical forests for the long-term benefit of the Congolese people and the world.

We had more than 100 students every day who attended for four days… It was so successful that we’ve now decided that we will be hosting two similar events in 2015… that would be my highlight of 2014.

Andrew Wardell
Senior Manager, Research Capacity & Partnership Development
Forests and Climate Change in the Congo Basin

Forests and Climate Change in the Congo (FCCC)

Funding partners:
The European Union’s Global Climate Change Alliance

The DRC Ministry of Environment, Conservation of Nature and Tourism (MECNT), the University of Kisangani (UNIKIS), Resources and Synergies Development (R&SD), The Virunga Foundation, ICRAF, WWF, Centre for International Sustainable Development Law (CISDL), University of Gembloux and the Jardin Botanique de Meise


Overall objective:
To support the DRC’s efforts to reduce deforestation and forest degradation, and thereby mitigate climate change.

Quick Profile

DSC_2916Name: Christian Amani
Current position: CIFOR Scientist, Goma, North Kivu Province, DRC

The stars aligned for Christian when he received a scholarship from CIFOR and its partners to do a PhD on forest ecosystems in the Congo Basin. He grew up in an eastern DRC village called Miti, Swahili for ‘forest’, and spent many hours in the neighboring Kahuzi-Biega National Park collecting treasures. Armed conflict brought an early end to childhood freedoms but despite several obstacles, Christian pursued his goal to become a biologist and later, a botanist.

Equipped with funding and support, Christian completed his PhD and fulfilled another dream, to join CIFOR. He now works on the FCCC project, helping to implement the work in Virunga National Park and teaching at Kisangani University, passing his knowledge on to the next generation of DRC scientists.

From the time I won the scholarship, I started dreaming of joining CIFOR. I could not imagine that my dream would become reality five years later.

Replenishing expertise

CIFOR scientists are supporting forestry in the DRC with funding and academic mentoring, and are also developing curricula and teaching university courses.

Total number of students supported through CIFOR projects:

  • 42 MSc students supported
  • 11 PhD students supported

Growing infrastructure
CIFOR is investing in:

  • Internet access on campuses
  • Field equipment
  • Classroom and lecture hall renovations
  • IT and audio-visual materials

Opening access to experts
When the first International Conference on Biodiversity in the Congo came to Kisangani, many cash-strapped students couldn’t attend. So CIFOR organized a free mini-conference in parallel, with many of the same speakers.

A multifaceted project
As well as capacity building, FCCC works to reduce the enormous pressure on Virunga National Park.

Specifically, our scientists and partners are promoting tree planting outside the park and the restoration of degraded land inside the park including negotiating land swaps with local communities.

Read more about it in this blog.


Related publication

The vast and varied forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are unique, with a value that extends far beyond the country’s national borders. They harbor an immense wealth of biodiversity, constitute a genetic treasure trove, and contribute to the environmental stability of the entire planet.