- Mongabay Explores is a podcast series exploring the world’s unique places, species and the people working to save them.
- This first episode in our fourth season explores the Congo Basin, its vast biodiversity, environmental challenges and conservation solutions.
- Home to the world’s second-largest rainforest, it also contains unique flora and fauna found nowhere else and some of the world’s most carbon-rich peatlands.
- Featured on this episode are Conserv Congo founder Adams Cassinga and Joe Eisen, executive director of Rainforest Foundation UK, who discuss the roadblocks to protecting peatlands and rainforests from resource extraction, the challenges with foreign aid and the difficult situation locals face in a nation wracked by conflict and insufficient critical infrastructure.
The Congo Basin contains the world’s second-largest rainforest at a staggering 178 million hectares (just under 440 million acres). It is also one of the biggest carbon sinks on the planet, containing 29 billion metric tons of carbon in its vast peatlands under the rich forest.
One of the basin’s key countries, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), aims to open up protected areas and forested peatlands to oil and gas development, with many experts warning of dire consequences to the rainforest and the world’s climate, should these peatlands be disturbed.
On this inaugural episode of Mongabay Explores the Congo Basin, Adams Cassinga, a DRC resident and founder of Conserv Congo, and Joe Eisen, executive director of Rainforest Foundation UK, speak with Mongabay about the conservation challenges faced by the DRC and the Congo Basin in general.
The Congo Basin lost an area of rainforest larger than the size of Bangladesh between 2000 and 2014, and while researchers have previously described subsistence farming as a main driver of this, Cassinga and Eisen both say large-scale resource extraction such as mining, logging and oil and gas development now play a central role in driving the deforestation. One emerging factor is that the Congo Basin (specifically the DRC) contains 70% of the world’s supply of cobalt among other valuable natural resources like timber, copper, oil and gas.
Though it’s just one of the nations that make up the Basin, the DRC contains 60% of Central Africa’s lowland forest. It’s also one of the poorest nations in the world, and it struggles to develop critical human infrastructure while protecting the biodiversity it contains, due to poor governance and political corruption.
International support, Cassinga argues, hasn’t been sufficient to keep peatlands and other fragile ecosystems undisturbed. Nor have resources been entrusted to local or Indigenous communities to carry out conservation projects, he argues.
Both Cassinga and Eisen detail ways forward through agroforestry and community-managed forests as well as scaling up Indigenous rights as a central pathway to effective conservation of the region. This and more are covered in the introductory episode of this multipart podcast series covering this Central African region.
- Poor governance fuels ‘horrible dynamic’ of deforestation in DRC
- Nearly 1 million km2 of intact forests menaced by extractives, study finds
- COP27 long on pledges, short on funds for forests — Congo Basin at risk
- Podcast: Who benefits from resource extraction in the DRC?
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Sounds heard during the intro and outro: The call of a putty-nosed monkey (Cercopithecus nictitans). This soundscape was recorded in Ivindo National Park in Gabon by Zuzana Burivalova, Walter Mbamy, Tatiana Satchivi, and Serge Ekazama.
Banner Image: A local girl carries forest produce (non timber forest products) back to Konye village. As industrial agricultural techniques spread into Africa, and especially into forests of the Congo Basin, Greenpeace identifies farming alternatives that can both benefit farmers, consumers and to the protection of natural resources. Image (c) Greenpeace / John Novis.
Related audio from Mongabay’s podcast: Episode two of the Congo series can be heard here: