The CARPE program was first authorized by the U.S. Government in 1995 and represents a long-term regional initiative currently in its fourth phase.
Phase I of CARPE (1995-2002) centered on gathering information on the Central African forest ecosystem, while simultaneously building regional human resources and institutional capacity.
The program began in four countries: the Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and the Republic of the Congo. Five additional countries were added to the CARPE program before the end of Phase I: Burundi, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Rwanda, and Sao Tome & Principe.
In 1997, there were no USAID missions in Congo Basin countries and the decision was made to work directly through partner organizations already operating in the region. The first set of ten partners included: the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS); the World Resources Institute (WRI); World Wildlife Fund (WWF); World Learning (later succeeded by Innovative Resource Management (IRM)); the U.S. Forest Service (USFS); the U.S. Peace Corps; and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in collaboration with the Universities of Virginia and Maryland. The tenth partner‚ the Biodiversity Support Program (BSP), a USAID-funded consortium of the WWF‚ the Nature Conservancy‚ and WRI‚ oversaw program management until December 2001.
USAID/CARPE entered into cooperative agreements with four additional organizations in 2000: the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN); Conservation International (CI); the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF); and established an interagency agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).
In January 2003, CARPE began its second strategic phase (CARPE II) to support the Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP), initially a 30-member “Type II Voluntary Partnership” under the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Commission framework. The CBFP was launched at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa. At the summit, the U.S. Government committed $53 million to finance the CBFP’s efforts to support sustainable forestry, biodiversity conservation, and poverty alleviation. The government identified USAID/CARPE as the principal mechanism through which these funds would be disbursed.
CARPE II (2003-2012) was a scaled-up operational phase comprising the nine aforementioned countries. During Phase II, CARPE management shifted from Washington, D.C. to the continent. USAID established a separate and distinct Operating Unit – USAID/Central Africa Regional based in Kinshasa, under the responsibility of the USAID/DRC Mission Director.
The objective of CARPE II was to reduce the rate of deforestation, forest degradation, and biodiversity loss in the Congo Basin through increased regional, national, and local capacity for natural resource management. CARPE II was specifically concerned with supporting sustainable natural resource management in the field, improving environmental governance, and strengthening natural resource monitoring capacity in Central Africa. The program implemented systematic land use planning to support forest and biodiversity conservation needs, and established partnerships and mechanisms to create sustainable conservation management systems. In 2010, CARPE II evolved from the initial focus on forest and biodiversity conservation to become the U.S. Government’s main program in Africa for climate change mitigation.
From 2003-2012, USAID/CARPE disbursed an average of $15 million per year to promote CBFP’s objectives in the region and in support of the following U.S. Government administrative and legislative priorities: the Congo Basin Forest Partnership Presidential Initiative, the Global Development Alliance, the Presidential Initiative Against Illegal Logging, the President’s Global Climate Change Initiative, the Biodiversity Legislative "earmark" FAA Section 118, and the Tropical Forestry Legislative "earmark" FAA Section 119. In addition to the funds provided through the U.S. Government, CARPE requires matching funds from its primary partners leveraging CARPE’s impact by more than 50 percent.
CARPE began the third phase (CARPE III) in 2012 under a new Regional Development Cooperative Strategy (2012-2020), approved by USAID’s Bureau for Africa in June 2011. The objective of CARPE III is to maintain the ecological integrity of the humid forest ecosystem of the Congo Basin and to contribute to the goal of accelerating Central Africa’s transition to climate-resilient, low-emissions development through sustainable management of biodiverse forests. In CARPE III, USAID focused its resources to increase opportunity for impact; landscape-level activities focused on the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo. Regional and cross-cutting activities targeted the six principal forested countries of Central Africa: Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and the Republic of the Congo; and continued to support the coordination of the Greater Virunga Landscape of DRC, Uganda, and Rwanda.
In 2013, USAID and the Government of Norway entered into a significant partnership, coordinating efforts and combining the strengths of two of the largest forest conservation donors.
CARPE III was implemented through two distinct but interdependent projects: the Central Africa Forest Ecosystems Conservation (CAFEC) and the Environmental Monitoring and Policy Support (EMAPS). CAFEC focused on sustainable forest management, wildlife conservation and REDD+ activities in nine carbon rich, biologically sensitive, and diverse natural forest landscapes. EMAPS focused on improving national and regional environmental policies and regulations, building capacity of public and private institutions to support conservation of forest and biodiversity, and boosting the quality and scope of conservation management, climate change mitigation efforts, and data collection.
Building on the investments, results, and lessons learned from the first two phases, activities under CARPE III placed a strong emphasis on institutionalizing the conservation monitoring and management approaches developed in CARPE II through individual, organizational, and systems capacity building to ensure that the ecological integrity of the humid forest ecosystem of the Congo Basin is sustained.
In its current phase, CARPE seeks to continue strengthening its approach by placing a greater focus on society and supporting the region’s journey to self-reliance by encouraging more citizen participation and ownership across households, communities, and protected areas. Carrying forward the goal of institutionalization and sustainability of activities, CARPE IV is adding flexibility by diversifying partners and approaches. By moving away from an approach based on cooperative agreements, the fourth phase of CARPE uses a mix of cooperative agreements, contracts, and global development alliances and aims to leverage the private sector’s flexibility and risk tolerance to mobilize market forces for conservation goals.
CARPE IV’s approach focuses on a) using a people-centered approach to biodiversity and habitat protection, using protected areas (PAs) as anchors for sustainable development, b) fostering public private partnerships (PPPs) for PA management, and c) leveraging natural capital to promote green economies.
CARPE IV takes a systematic approach to ensuring gender considerations are factored into all activities, both to provide positive opportunities for women and marginalized groups, and to reduce gender discrimination and gender-based violence in biodiversity and forest management. In developing CARPE IV, USAID conducted systematic assessments of how to engage with Indigenous People as those whose lives are most intricately connected to the forests in which they live. Indigenous People are often marginalized in unsustainable forest management, and the assessment resulted in a practical guide for partners to ensure they are engaged in effective and equitable ways.