How do door frames connect to a radio broadcasting Pygmy songs through the forest?
African hardwood in the shape of doors, fences, wood panels or simple planking is found in numerous quantities in our DIY stores. As you roam the aisles, do you think about the story behind this wood? Do you sometimes wonder which forest can supply so much of this timber? The supply seems never ending doesn’t it? And it is cheap too!
Unfortunately, it is actually not as cheap as we think (it’s just that we don’t pay the full price) and it is far from a never ending supply! Unfortunately many companies are extracting timber as cheaply as possible without any concern whatsoever for the long term value of these forests: threatening the livelihoods of local people, damaging the environment and causing the extinction of wild life.
Luckily not all companies act like this.TFT is supporting a number of large companies who are making great efforts in the Congo Basin to change the story of the African hardwood from one of social and environmental degradation to one of cooperation and long term commitment to sustainability.
Engaging with companies in the region, including Congolaise Industrielle des Bois (CIB), and ALPI
CIB and ALPI are pioneering forest companies who made an early commitment to secure FSC certification when the majority of their competitors choose not to care. Yet progressing on the path of certification, these companies didn’t know how to address the social issues arising on the forest concessions they managed and found that there was not enough qualified or knowledgeable experts to help them achieve their goal.
TFT has played a pivotal role in designing and developing tools and practices to get local people involved in forest management decision making and to improve social practices. We work with companies to trial and implement these solutions and build a regional skills bank to replicate these solutions throughout the region.
Pygmy Mapping programme
The Congo Basin forests are home to many semi-nomadic Pygmy groups who rely on the forests for their daily needs and also for their cultural and spiritual heritage.
To ensure CIB harvests trees while preserving the forest homes of the Pygmies, TFT and other partners developed a unique icon-based GPS technology system to map the forest areas important to the Pygmies lives. The Pygmies were then able to communicate and come to an agreement with the CIB on the protection of their resources. To date, all mapped areas and community resources have been formally protected by CIB and demarcated in the field.
Biso na Biso
To further the communication channels, TFT along with our partners and CIB developed the indigenous language radio station, ‘Biso na Biso’ (meaning between us in Lingala), which was launched in March 2009. Staffed by local people, the radio ensures that a consistent platform for communication between the Pygmies and CIB is enhanced and maintained. The radio broadcasts to handheld wind-up and solar powered radios distributed to people within the forest. Programmes include stories collected by local journalists from the communities, traditional music, cultural stories, and educational programs relating to health care.
Centre of Social Excellence (CSE)
Working in the region, it became clear that there was a need to develop local capacity for social forestry skills. To meet this need TFT created the Centre of Social Excellence, an educational establishment based in Cameroon and the Republic of Congo.
Launched officially in June 2009, the CSE trains young African graduates in social and mediation techniques to support forest concessions in communicating and negotiating with local populations.
The Pygmies mapping their forests with GPS tools, the Biso na Biso radio station and the graduates of the CSE have become part of the new story of African forests and African Hardwood products This is one product story that can be enjoyed by consumers when they buy a wood product.