Urgent Evoke

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The RFO: Zoning as an approach to natural resource management

I choose the case The RFO: Zoning as an approach to natural resource management.

General informaiton about RFO

Okapis Fauna Reserve (RFO)  is a protected area of the Democratic Republic of Congo, which covers a surface area of 13,725 km2, or 20 % of the Ituri Forest (which in turn makes up a large part of the Congo Basin rainforest). The flora and fauna in the RFO is very rich.

The most recent census, carried out in 1994 by a team led by Bryan Curran, revealed that 20,000 people lived within the Reserve’s boundaries,and another 10,000 within a radius of 15 kilometers. These people live essentially from the forest’s natural resources, which are used for various purposes.

The intention behind the creation of the RFO was not just to save a part of the Ituri Forest from the chaotic exploitation of its natural resources, but rather to ensure that the native people should be able to benefit from, and use in a sustainable manner,the natural resources on which they had depended for centuries for their survival.



The devastation of the Ituri Forest make it impossible for resources to be renewed.The country has rapidly begun opening up to investorsbecause of precious metals such as gold and diamonds,and its natural resources are being greedily coveted.

Another problem was that native people effectively became marginalized with respect to the immigrant population.

Furthermore the management within the RFO was highly centralized organised. The structure that prevailed with the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN) has led to the current flaws and omissions:

  • The ministerial decree may not repeal decrees signed by other ministries,such as those creating the gold mining, diamond mining, and even logging permits in force on the reserve.
  • A presidential decree may, at any moment, render a ministerial decree invalid, and consequently end the existence of a reserve.

All the problems and omissions in this area subsequently became apparent due to a systemic failure in the relationship between the base (the protected area) and its management (in Kinshasa), with regard to the implementation of the decisions taken and to the implementation of the law.



The biggest changes that needed to be made essentially reside in the reserve-management techniques outlined in the management plan.

Zoning is a process that consists of dividing up the Reserve into various zones- one devoted to agriculture and hunting, one to hunting alone, and a number of further zones, which are devoted entirely to conservation and serve as reproduction reservoirs for animal species in order that the other two zones can be repopulated.

Local people were organized into ground-level communities, called Permanent Local Consultation Committees, or CPCLs, which were designed to participate in zone management, to serve as a link between the local population and ICCN/RFO officials, and above all to define development areas that were compatible with the goals of the conservation efforts.

The CPCLs provided an excellent example of how the ICCN could work together with local communities.Together, the two partners studied problems that arose at a local level in an effort to find appropriate solutions.


This case shows how important are the legal and administrative structures of the country concerned, together with effective and well-thought-out management structures for the success of a project.






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