The CARPE program is directly concerned with the sustainable management of the Congo Basin forest ecosystem.
The Congo Basin forest spans across much of Central Africa and is the second largest area of contiguous moist tropical forest left in the world. It covers almost two million square kilometers from the Atlantic Ocean's Gulf of Guinea to the mountains of the Albertine Rift. Eighty percent of the forests range in altitude from 300 to 1,000 meters and form the catchment basin of the Congo River.
Representing approximately one-fifth of the world's remaining closed canopy tropical forest, the Congo Basin forest is of local, regional, and global environmental significance. The forest serves as critical habitat for biodiversity (home to three of the world's four species of great apes) and provides vital regional and global ecological services. The forest also represents a rich resource in terms of food, shelter, and livelihoods for the over 80 million inhabitants of the region. The sustainable management of these resources is critical to the economic development of the region.
The Congo Basin forests, which play a major economic role and ecological role as a carbon sink and a catchment basin, are at risk from a complex set of threats. While much of the forest currently remains intact, many factors contribute to its continual loss. These factors include proximate threats from the persistent unsustainable extraction of timber and mineral resources, agricultural expansion, an active bushmeat trade, poor management, and increasing pressure due to population growth. In addition, the forests of the Congo Basin are vulnerable to broader political-economic threats related to persistent regional poverty, weak governance, and civil unrest.
The Congo Basin forest is not contained within a single country, but instead represents a contiguous area of tropical forest that acts as the catchment basin for the Congo River.
The forest spans nine countries in Central Africa and sustainable management of the forests in Congo Basin involves engaging and supporting cooperation and collaboration between these countries.
During CARPE I and CARPE II, CARPE worked in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, Gabon, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Sao Tome & Principe. The governments of these countries have established their willingness to create a meaningful regional forest dialogue by becoming members of the Central African Forest Commission (COMIFAC). Under CARPE III, USAID’s landscape-level activities are focused on the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo. Regional and cross-cutting activities target the six principal forested countries of Central Africa: Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and the Republic of Congo; and continue to support the coordination of the Greater Virunga Landscape of DRC, Uganda, and Rwanda.
The majority of CARPE funds are allocated to support activities in designated landscapes. By implementing a landscape approach to natural resource management, CARPE works to assure that biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation efforts are prioritized throughout high-value forest areas.
Under CARPE III, USAID is working in nine key landscapes of biological significance in the DRC and Republic of Congo. The nine landscapes form the pillar of CARPE's regional conservation strategy and cover an area of 300,000 square kilometers
The landscapes targeted by CARPE were identified as appropriate conservation targets at a 2000 Conservation Priority-Setting Workshop for Central Africa. The workshop was organized by the World Wildlife Fund and brought together over 160 biologists and socio-economic experts to carry out a region-wide evaluation. Twelve landscapes were recognized as priority areas for conservation based on their relative taxonomic importance, their overall integrity, and the resilience of ecological processes represented. In accordance with principles of integrated conservation initiatives and broad-scale land management, each landscape is divided into three different categories of management areas, including: protected areas, community-based natural resource management zones, and extractive zones. Within these zones, CARPE and its partners are working to implement sustainable natural resource management practices at the local scale.
USAID has been proactive in integrating other U.S. government agencies into its CARPE program, with each agency contributing its experience and expertise to meet the program goals: