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In the Congo Basin, Pygmies, forgotten Guards Climate

Who has not heard of the Amazon Kayapo Chief Raoni which advocates for the rights of his people all over the world? Who does not know that behind the jars of Nutella.

Pygmies are believed to live in the Congo forests.

It is not only orang-utans but other forest peoples who were driven from their land to make room for palm oil plantations? The fate of people in dense forests of the Congo Basin does not receive the same publicity.

Is it because of decades of conflict and under-investment have so far kept this region more away from large-scale investments in the sectors of forestry or agribusiness ? Yet the role of indigenous peoples in the preservation of tropical forests is everywhere equally important.

If we want to protect the forests, we must protect the rights of indigenous peoples and forest communities who manage these areas for generations, "recalled the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, Helen Clark, Friday, April 22, during a meeting on "the protection of forest guards" organized by the Ford Foundation in the margins of the official signing of the Paris climate agreement at the United Nations in New York.

Tropical second massive planet.

"We cannot ignore the second solid tropical world, it is the next frontier to defend if we do not want a repeat here the history of Brazil, Indonesia and Malaysia," warns Frances Seymour, researcher the Center for Global development (CGD) and former Director of CIFOR (International research Centre on the forest) "for this, we must recognize the land rights of those who protect the forest.”

But in this area, Central Africa is late. A study published in October 2015 by the NGO, Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), less than 3% of the land managed by indigenous peoples and local communities are sorted by title deeds in Africa against 10% across World.

RRI maintains a database of the rights granted to indigenous peoples and local communities in 64 countries covering 82% of the land area.

If Uganda, the percentage reaches 67%, Liberia nearly 32% and 24% in Mozambique, it is zero in all countries of the Congo Basin. Cameroon and to a lesser extent the Congo, however demarcated part of the land for the benefit of those populations.

In the Republic of the Congo, indigenous people, still pejoratively called “pygmies,” represent 10% of the total population.

The DRC has just taken an important step by giving, by a decree issued in February, the possibility of local communities to become forest concession owner’s imprisonment that may extend over 50,000 hectares. This idea was introduced in the forestry code in 2002 that no action be taken.

However, the situation of the Pygmies - whose very approximate number is estimated at 700,000 people - remains unchanged.

One figure is enough to understand why environmentalists converge with human rights activists in the defense of indigenous peoples: the spaces occupied by these populations store about 20% of forest carbon entire tropical belt, according to an evaluation of the Woods Hole Research Centre, published in December 2015. For the DRC, this figure exceeds 30%, seven times the annual emissions of the country.

Valuable allies.

"It will be impossible to contain global warming below 2 ° C without halt deforestation", said in New York, Philip Duffy, the president of this scientific research center. "A very determined action to preserve existing forests and massive reforestation may win more than a decade in weaning from fossil fuels that the world must reach.

A family of Pygmies in their Cabin in the forest.

In this race against time, indigenous peoples and local communities are the eyes of valuable allies’ climatologists.

It remains to convince governments. In national contributions submitted in the context of the Paris climate agreement by each signatory country , only Cameroon among the countries of Central Africa auraitjusqu’à now provided , according to RRI to make room for Pygmies in its strategy the fight against climate change.

By Robert Muriisa.

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